Making summer cocktail recipes using polytunnel produce is a great way to rekindle your love of gardening at the busiest time of year in the garden. Summer is a time when there is always lots to do, from planting the seeds that will see you through the winter to the hungry gap next year, to weeding and watering, tending and harvesting. Polytunnel gardeners will be very busy throughout the warmest months.
But just because you are busy in your garden, that does not mean that you should not also be making time to enjoy it. Summer garden parties, long, lazy afternoons in the sunshine, and entertaining evenings enjoying your outside space should be part and parcel of a polytunnel gardener’s summer.
Summer is a great time to stock up your drinks cabinet with your favourite drinks, and to make some fresh, zesty and delicious cocktails with some of the produce that you grow.
What Produce Can You Use in Summer Cocktails?
There are plenty of different ingredients commonly grown in and around a polytunnel that can be used in a range of wonderful cocktail recipes. For example, you might use:
- Summer fruits and berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc..
- Fruits from the vegetable garden – such as tomatoes etc..
- Herbs such as mint, thyme, etc..
- Flowers such as borage, lavender, roses etc..
You can use all of the above ingredients to concoct your delightful drinks. Below, you will find some recipe ideas to inspire you to make your own summer cocktails using the things that you grow.
In addition to creating cocktails using your home-grown polytunnel produce, you might also consider making wines, infused spirits, ciders or other beverages from the produce, and then turning these into delicious cocktails.
Gooseberry & Elderflower Fizz Cocktail
This simple and elegant drink involves crushing gooseberries from your garden (around a dozen per glass), with 1 tbsp caster sugar, the juice of half a lemon, and three tbsp of elderflower cordial. Add some ice cubes, shake well, pour the mixture into a glass and then top it up with a chilled sparkling wine such as Prosecco.
This is just one of a range of different drinks that you could make using gooseberries from your garden. If you want to make this a healthier option, you could replace the sugar with honey or agave syrup. If you feel like it, and have elder growing in your garden, you could consider making the cordial yourself from scratch too.
Classic Strawberry Daiquiri
Strawberries are a favourite summer fruit for many, and one of the excellent things about them is that they are incredibly easy to grow – especially when you do so in a polytunnel. Make these lovely fruits the stars of the show by turning them into a classic strawberry daiquiri.
To make this pretty, sweet and delicious drink, simply blend 1 cup of ice with around 1 oz sugar syrup with 3 or so fresh strawberries, 2 oz of light rum, and (optional) ½ the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Pour the blended drink into a margarita or collins glass and garnish with fresh strawberries.
Strawberry Frozé Summer Cocktail
Another way to use strawberries to make a delicious cocktail is to turn them into a delicious frozen rosé wine cocktail – or frozé. This is a refreshing, cooling beverage to serve on a hot sunny day. To make this drink, simply blend rose wine with frozen strawberries from your polytunnel, and ice.
Place them in a blender and blend to a smooth consistency before serving. Additional ingredients that you could consider adding to your icy cocktail are lemon juice, and herbs, such as fresh tarragon.
Blueberry Mint Gin Summer Cocktail
Another delightfully refreshing summer cocktail that you could consider is a gin cocktail using blueberry syrup and fresh mint. To make this concoction, first whip up a blueberry syrup using fresh blueberries and sugar or another sweetener. Add this syrup to some gin, add some ice and a garnish of fresh mint and serve.
Blueberries are another of the versatile summer ingredients that can be used in a wide range of drinks and other recipes throughout their harvest season. A blueberry syrup can be created ahead of time so that you can use it to whip up some cocktails whenever you feel the urge.
Pimms Cocktails With Borage
Pimms is a traditional summer cocktail – but opinion differs as to what should go into one of these summer fruit cups. Some add orange slices, some add halved and hulled strawberries and cucumber pieces. Others, however, prefer to keep things simple, with a handful of borage flowers (or borage flowers frozen into ice cubes) and a lemon slice.
However you choose to make your Pimms, borage is a great ingredient to include. Borage has a light cucumber-like taste and the flowers look lovely too. These summer cocktails are yet one more reason to grow these useful plants in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden.
Mojitos are another classic summer drink. Make some blackberry mojitos for you and your friends or family this summer by crushing some blackberries and placing these atop mint leaves in the bottom of some glasses. Add light rum, 1 tsp sugar (or honey) and lime juice and stir to combine. Top with crushed ice, add club soda, and garnish with mint leaves and more fresh blackberries.
Of course, you could also use other fresh berries, such as raspberries or something similar for this cocktail. Why not experiment with making mojitos from the various berries that you grow in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden?
Rainbow Sangria Cocktail
This recipe is a great way to showcase the variety of summer fruits that you grow. You could use a wide range of fruits, from tropical options like pineapple, to common UK fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries etc. Presentation is key for these sangria cocktails, which involve layering up the different fruits in tall glasses.
Once you have layered your fruits within the glasses, you can pour over your mix of chilled moscato, triple sec, the juice of limes and some sugar to complete your colourful cocktails.
Rosé Sangria Floats
Making some raspberry sorbet from the raspberries you have grown is a great way to make something special of these delicious berries. To up the ante even more, you can turn your raspberry sorbet into rose sangria floats.
Take your raspberry sorbet and place some in margarita style glasses. Top with a dash of vodka and some sparkling rosé wine, then top the glasses with some fresh raspberries, along with some other summer berries such as blueberries or strawberries if you have them.
Lavender Collins Cocktail
Try something a little different this summer by making a lavender simple syrup with 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of fresh lavender. (If you want this simple syrup to last longer, you can add vodka too.) Take 1 oz of this lavender simple syrup and combine it with 2 oz gin, 1 oz fresh lemon juice and a handful of ice. Top this with soda water and garnish with some fresh lavender. A floral, botanical gin is the best option for this summer cocktail recipe.
Lavender is just one of a range of flowers that can be incorporated into summer cocktails. So you might want to experiment with adding other edible flowers and petals to your summer drinks.
Zingy Bloody Mary
A bloody Mary is one interesting way that you could consider using up a glut of tomatoes from your polytunnel. This classic vodka cocktail has a range of variants, which means that it is ideal for customising to suit your own particular tastes.
First, make tomato juice, and perhaps pick some celery sticks from your polytunnel to serve. Combine tomato juice with vodka, a little lemon juice if desired, and a pinch of black pepper. You can then customise your recipe, adding a little hot sauce made from polytunnel chilli peppers, for example, or with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce.
These are, of course, just some of the hundreds of summer cocktail recipes that you could consider making from the produce that you grow in your polytunnel. Experimentation is fun, and a wonderful way to develop the favours and find the drinks that you enjoy most. Do you have your own summer cocktail recipes to share? Please give us your own suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.