Lemon verbena is not an herb that you’d find in your typical grocery store. Luckily, Kendall and I have come across it several times at the market (I know, we’re spoiled). It is a beautiful herb with long, skinny leaves, and has a wild lemon fragrance. I love it in cocktails—it adds a bright, citrus flavor when the fresh leaves are muddled.
One downside about lemon verbena: the leaves turn brown quickly. This past weekend when I got home from the market, I realized many of my lemon verbena leaves turned brown. Sad, sad day. I knew that the rest of the leaves wouldn’t last for long—I’d have to use them right away, or dry them out for later use. Kendall was expecting some lemon verbena cocktails with our homemade pasta dinner, so I decided to dry them out, with plans to make a lemon verbena sugar.
I set the oven to 200 degrees and popped the leaves in for 30-40 minutes, until the leaves were completely dry. After letting them cool, I mashed them up into small bits using a mortar and pestle, and added some demerara sugar to be ground with the dried lemon verbena (about a 1:5 ratio, lemon verbena to sugar). Demerara sugar is basically a large-grained raw sugar with some molasses residue. With the mortar and pestle, I was able to grind the demerara sugar and lemon verbena bits down into a fine, sand-like lemon verbena sugar.
The lemon verbena sugar is fantastic in tea or mixed into yogurt, but it's my favorite in a strong cocktail. Although we aren't using the herb fresh, the sugar still adds bright, citrus notes to cocktails.
1 tbs. Lemon Verbena Sugar
4 Mint Leaves + 1 Mint Sprig
2 oz. Bourbon
Splash of Water
Muddle mint leaves with lemon verbena sugar and water in a pint glass. Add ice, then bourbon, and stir for several seconds. Double strain into rocks glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with mint sprig and lemon zest (optional).