Flower Enthusiast and Cocktail Creator Alyson Brown Shares Her Tips for Creating Floral Cocktails
If you love both flowers and cocktails, Alyson Brown's new book, The Flower-Infused Cocktail: Flowers, With a Twist ($29.95, amazon.com)—which she describes as "a love letter to flowers and an ode to the appreciation of blooms beyond the vase"—affords the perfect opportunity to explore how these components can be combined to create some standout drinks that elevate the drinking experience.
Brown not only offers a fresh take on traditional mixology by showcasing over 60 different edible flowers in unique cocktail recipes that she created and photographed herself, but she also educates the flower and/or cocktails enthusiast by sharing interesting facts and folklore about the flowers she features in her drinks (which also include mocktails, floral waters, teas, and tinctures). If you want to go back to a more basic aspect of cocktail making by exploring garnishes, Brown offers recommendations on flowers that can be used for this purpose as well. The book also sets you up for success by offering useful information on best practices for using edible flowers, glassware for cocktails, and setting up a home bar.
For flower fans looking to experiment and explore different ways to incorporate blooms into cocktails, Brown says that the simplest way to begin your journey is to first and foremost, realize that there's "a wide variety of edible flowers that goes beyond just rose or lavender or chamomile, some of the more commonly known ones that you could easily go out to your garden and find [and] that you can add into your drink." Brown is particularly fond of "freesias, gladiolas, dahlias, peonies," she says. "The list kind of goes on and on. But those were some of the ones that surprised me."
Brown also shares her favorite flowers for boosting the flavor profile of a cocktail, and she encourages readers to sample different florals so they can determine the ones that they personally gravitate towards and enjoy. From there, you can start building your collection of go-to cocktails by pairing your favorite edible flowers with your go-to spirits. "Elderflower for example, is going to add such a citrusy floral flavor," offers Brown, who created her business Wild Folk Flower Apothecary, to share just such tips and tricks with fellow enthusiasts. She points out that "flowers like the nasturtium, for example, are spicy and kind of peppery, which when you think of floral as a flavor, that's not what somebody would normally imagine. There's a species of begonia that the flowers are edible and they're crispy and kind of crunchy rather, and have a very citrusy taste to them. So experimenting and just exploring the different flavors could definitely be a starting point," Brown says.
If you're seeking suggestions in terms of flower and spirit pairings that go beyond the widely popular and commonly used elderflower and gin combination, Brown has a few suggestions: "Rose, I think, would go really nicely with gin, but also goes really nicely with bourbon. Violet is another great combo with gin. And hibiscus is wonderful in a margarita." She adds that "herb blossoms or flowers are so fun to play with, too. In the book, I used clover flowers and made a fun tea with rum, kind of a mojito. You could use an herb blossom with a nice cognac or a tequila, like you can just use that all across the board."
Brown has plenty of other advice for novice floral cocktail enthusiasts: First, start with a spirit that has a floral component already infused into it, like a violet, elderflower, rose, or honey chrysanthemum liqueur. Then, explore flowers that are already available in your garden, as you know how they have been treated and grown (without chemicals or pesticides). You can wash the flowers, or do as Brown does with her personal garden picks and give them a little shake and dust-off to rid them of any bugs and debris.
If you are purchasing flowers for cocktails, Brown advises against buying them from a flower market because they may have been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals not suitable for consumption. She suggests sourcing cocktail florals from a company like California-based Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, which specializes in edible flowers.
Use a basket, window screen, or rack that allows air to flow through it if you want to try drying flowers for later use. Brown recommends storing fresh flowers in the crisper section of your refrigerator.