Copyright A Bar Above 2021
Copyright A Bar Above 2021

Whether you’re a professional bartender or cocktail enthusiast, you’ve probably had the annoying experience of gathering a beautiful bunch of fresh herbs, only to have them wilt by the end of the night. 

The question of how to keep your leafy herbs fresh came up recently in our Craft Bartender Community on Facebook, and there were some amazing suggestions for extending the shelf life of mint leaves and fresh basil (and more!) from several experienced bartenders. 

So don’t cry over yucky, soft leaves anymore– We’re here with a basic guide on how to stretch out the average life span and shelf life of your delicate herbs.

Photo by Pille R. Priske via Unsplash
Photo by Pille R. Priske via Unsplash


If you work at a bar or restaurant, you obviously want your garnishes to look fresh all night. Here are some pro tips for keeping leaves green so that your cocktails wow your customers from opening to close.

1. Put fresh mint and other kinds of herbs in a glass of water

Just like you would with fresh flowers, our community members suggest putting your bunches of herbs in a water glass during a restaurant shift. (This would also work for a cocktail party). Placing your common herbs in water is a great short-term way to keep them fresh for a couple hours during service. 

Of course, this isn’t long term storage, so you can combine this with any other idea in the section below– if you haven’t used all your fresh mint for mojitos in one night, that is!

2. Use the “Shock Method” on your fresh herbs before putting them in a jar of water

It’s such a bummer (and waste of money) to throw out fresh mint or a beautiful basil plant that has succumbed to brown leaves. To keep your southsides looking their best, try this effective method– which adds a step before you put your herbs in a water glass– suggested by several pro bartenders in our group.

  • Cut the stem bases at an angle.
  • Run your mint under cold water or stick it in ice water for about 15 seconds.
  • You can leave the mint on the bar or stick in the fridge during service, but most bartenders recommend using step #1 and putting it in a glass of water after the ice bath.

The idea is to “shock” the fresh mint in cold water. The cold temperatures effectively freeze the plant at its freshest.

Photo via Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

3. Combine cool water with warm

You can modify the first two methods by shocking your mint leaves in cold water first and then putting them in a glass of warm water. Some bartenders swear by this!

“How I display them is first have a container filled with crushed ice and water. Dunk the sprigs into the water and hold for around 10-15 secs. The leaves will be “shocked” into place. In another container– for me a copper mug works great– fill with warm, but not scolding hot, water. Put the leaves in the mug, and they should hold and look fresh all service.” –John Olmos, Craft Bartender Community

4. Take it one step further with the Vestinos Method

Named after bartender John Vestinos who presented this idea at Tales of the Cocktail, this process is much like #2 and #3, except it requires you dunking mint in ice water for 10-15 minutes. (This article promises that 14 is the magic number.)

Photo by Kevin Doran via Unsplash
Photo by Kevin Doran via Unsplash


For keeping mint, basil, and other leafy greens past beverage service and at home, here are a few other suggestions for extended storage.

1. Use a damp paper towel and resealable plastic bag

One of the most common storage methods is to use a dampened paper towel in an airtight container. The paper towel gives your fresh herbs moisture, keeping them alive for up to a week or two– but you don’t want too much moisture! Be careful not to soak the paper towel. I often use a dry paper towel for storing cilantro and parsley. 

You can also combine this storage technique with the Vestinos Method to shock your herbs before storing them.

2. Squeeze lemon over your herbs

It’s a well-known fact that citric acid keeps foods fresh, which is why it’s a commonly-used preservative. Use this same concept, and squeeze a little lemon over your herbs before you pack them away in the refrigerator, rather than using a paper towel.

Photo by Jan Sedivy via Unsplash
Photo by Jan Sedivy via Unsplash

3. Invest in an herb keeper for fresh herbs

Some of our Craft Bartender Community members insist that herb keepers keep everything crisp and fresh. Bonus: It reduces additional waste by avoiding plastic bags!

4.  Cover your herbal boutique with plastic

After sitting your greens in a water cup, you can store it in the fridge by covering it.

  • Cut the ends at an angle.
  • Put your herbs in a half-full cup of water.
  • Cover the top with a clear bag or plastic wrap, using an elastic band to keep the bag or wrap tight around the cup.
  • Stick your bouquet in the fridge to keep your garnish lasting fresh for days.

5. Keep your living herbs!

Maintain the freshness of your mint and basil by letting potted herbs live on your kitchen counter (where they have access to indirect sunlight) or planting an herb garden outside.

You can also help store-bought herbs stay fresh and growing by replanting it after tip #4, changing out the water ever 48 hours:

“Keep it growing.

  1. Cut stalks with a super sharp knife at an angle.
  2. ‘Plant’ in a jar of 20mm [3/4 inch] of fresh water.
  3. Cover top with cling film.
  4. Refrigerate 5 deg. C [40 degrees Fahrenheit].

Change the water every 48 hours. The mint will keep growing for weeks. You need to keep it covered, though. Leaves draw water up through stalks, leaves perspire water, so the plant constantly recycles the water. Re-cut stalks a couple of millimeters every so often. Keep in cold water for service. Replant after.” –Marcus Deaves, Craft Bartender Community

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash
Of course, you can combine some of these techniques to create your own system. Trim the stem bases of your tender herbs, and then store them in a resealable plastic bag with a damp cloth. Or put your bunch of basil in a bit of water like a bouquet of flowers, and then put them in cold water to “freeze” and store them.

Do you use a certain method to avoid wilted leaves? How do you take care of your fresh mint, basil leaves, and other savory herbs? Whether store-bought or from your garden, you want your chosen herb to stay fresh for longer– even if just a couple of days– so you can make more cocktails!

Photo by Kim Daniels via Unsplash
Photo by Kim Daniels via Unsplash
Let us know in the comments or in our Facebook group what you do to maintain your fragrant herbs!  And don’t forget to grab our muddler and anything else you need to make your beautiful cocktails.
Melanie Tornroth

Melanie Tornroth

A former English teacher, Melanie optimistically embraces the struggle that is work-from-home parenthood as the in-house writer for A Bar Above. When not responding to “Mom” and writing articles for ABA, she also runs Goodnickels Photography, loves to cuddle her cats, and is perfecting the art of keeping her pandemic “fermentation babies” alive.