Botanical Cocktails Bloom at Delaware Restaurants

Botanical ingredients brighten the season's cocktails.

It’s hard to find parking in a garden center this time of year. But long before the first buds appeared on the trees, Delaware mixologists were playing with plants.

Featured in everything from cocktails to mocktails, botanical ingredients are prominent at hip bars, notes the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2024” culinary forecast.

The craze is already blooming in the home of the peach blossom. Instead of bloody marys and mimosas, many customers at Egg in Rehoboth Beach order the Lavender French 75. “People are loving the botanicals,” notes owner Missi Postles.

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The trend supports the notion that everything old is new again. Juniper berries, for instance, have provided the flavor and aroma of gin since the 11th century. Along with berries, botanical ingredients include seeds, flowers, leaves and spices. Here are a few sips to savor.

Loving on lavender

Perhaps it’s the hue, or maybe it’s the calming effect, but lavender is a popular beverage botanical.

Bombay Sapphire gin gives Egg’s Lavender French 75 a running start. The beverage includes fresh lemon juice and a simple syrup infused with lavender and butterfly-pea-flower powder, served in a coupe glass and topped with bubbly prosecco.

510 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-3447; eggrehoboth.com

The Lavender Daiquiri at Lewes Oyster House features fragrant blossoms from Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor in Milton. Ingredients also include white rum and fresh lime juice.
The Lavender Daiquiri at Lewes Oyster House features fragrant blossoms from Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor in Milton. Ingredients also include white rum and fresh lime juice.

At Lewes Oyster House, bartender Cody Mitchell created the lavender daiquiri, which features plants from Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor in Milton. Fresh lime and white rum make it slightly tart, while the lavender simple syrup lends a sweetness, says co-owner Tom Little.

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108 Second St., Lewes; 644-7258; lewesoyster.com

Pizza by Elizabeths in Greenville gives the martini a lavender twist. The lavender lemon martini is made with a Ketel One Citroen base, homemade lemonade and a lavender-infused simple syrup.

3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 654-4478; pizzabyelizabeths.com

Sensational strawberry

Strawberry is the official state fruit, and May is the perfect time to enjoy fresh, local berries. JAM Bistro in downtown Rehoboth uses Fifer Orchards’ strawberries to make a vodka-infused lemonade from scratch. The cocktail also includes strawberry jam.

210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach; 226-5266; jambistro.com

“The trend supports the notion that everything old is new again. Juniper berries, for instance, have provided the flavor and aroma of gin since the 11th Century.”

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At Buckley’s Tavern, the strawberry margarita includes Downeast Cider House’s strawberry flavor, while the bourbon cure is made with strawberry syrup—along with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice and orange bitters.

5812 Kennett Pike, Centreville; 656-9776; buckleystavern.com

Sage, rosemary and thyme

Herbs bring a savory element that can balance cocktail flavors, and they serve as great garnishes.

In Lewes, Heirloom makes a mean gimlet with either basil or sage, says owner Meghan Lee.

212 Savannah Road, Lewes; 313-4065; heirloomdelaware.com

At Capers & Lemons in Wilmington, The Real Nic Sage contains Codigo Blanco tequila, sage simple syrup and grapefruit bitters.

301 Little Falls Drive, Wilmington; 256-0524; capersandlemons.com

The rosemary-lemongrass paloma has been a hit since The Brandywine Restaurant opened last year. “I anticipate it will stay popular as the season changes too,” says bartender Jessica Ruggieri.

The paloma is a tequila-based cocktail with a citrusy soda, such as Fresca. At The Brandywine, vodka is another option. However, Ruggieri says the cocktail is equally popular as a mocktail.

2000 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington; 240-4700; thebrandywinebar.com

Step aside, bloody mary. The Lavender French 75 is a hit at Egg, a breakfast and lunch spot in Rehoboth. Owner Missi Postles says botanical ingredients are popular.
Step aside, bloody Mary. The Lavender French 75 is a hit at Egg, a breakfast and lunch spot in Rehoboth. Owner Missi Postles says botanical ingredients are popular.

Happy Camper is a cheerful libation at Home Grown Café in Newark. Made with Stateside vodka, it also features maple syrup, fresh lemon juice and rosemary.

126 E. Main St., Newark; 266-6993; homegrowncafe.com

Thyme is another herb springing up in modern cocktails. At the Pink Pony Botanical Bar in Bramble & Brine at the Buttery in Lewes, the Berry Thyme Smash is a summery blend of Crater Lake berry vodka, lime-guava seltzer, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, mint simple syrup and thyme liqueur.

The restaurant’s lounge takes its name seriously. “Everything is garnished with house-made herb blends, bee pollen, herbs and flowers,” says owner Megan Kee. “Rimming liquids are herbal simple syrups or raw honey.”

102 Second St., Lewes; 645-5375; bramble-brine.com

Exotic spices

Not all botanicals are floral or woodsy. For instance, Curry & Cocktails in Middletown sprinkles cumin spice into its jaljeera mojito, which is made with rum and muddled lime, and topped with club soda.

422 E. Main St., Middletown; 524-4308; curryandcocktails.com

In downtown Wilmington, Merchant Bar covers several botanical bases with the cardi basil, a lively libation with basil-infused vodka, Big O Ginger Liqueur, apricot, lemon and cardamom bitters.

426 N. Market St., Wilmington; merchantbarwilmington.com

Hello, hibiscus

The “What’s Hot” survey found that hibiscus is a cutting-edge beverage flavor. While it’s still difficult to find at many Delaware bars, that will undoubtedly change.

Meanwhile, The Libation Room—a lounge within The Summer House in Rehoboth—features hibiscus citrus tea, with cognac, dry curacao, pomegranate, lemon and hibiscus tea.

228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 493-3365; summerhouserehoboth.com

Related: Where to Find a Great Bloody Mary at the Delaware Beaches

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