Grow a Great Cocktail

Tis the Season to Plant Your Beverage!

December 2021. By Cassy Aoyagi: As our family chef, I rely on our landscape for distinctive flavors and the merriment of experimentation. While it’s always nice to have lime, lemon, and rosemary on hand, a few California native plants have become just as essential to my happy hours. Here are 5 cocktail ingredients to plant now for a merry 2022.



CVS now carries an Elderberry cough syrup, but it won’t bring hummingbirds, Jays, and Thrashers to your garden like the real deal will! There are many varieties of Elderberry, some requiring the cool of high elevations, some needing an abundance of space. Sambucus Mexicana is a variety that can handle heat and is a great size for those who harvest berries.


Lemonade Berry

We were tickled to see the range of cocktail and mocktail recipes showcased by Tree of Life Nursery, as it is one of our favorite choices for a biodiverse hedge. Its “tea” is so incredibly versatile. Of course, we aren’t the only creatures who enjoy its berries. In the fall, Lemonade Berries are full of snacking wildlife.



Manzanita may be on my mind, as its December blooms are a favorite of nesting hummingbirds. While it is tempting to leave the blooms for them, they also make lovely snowflake-evoking holiday cocktail garnishes. Its summer berries can be used in the same way or made into syrups or bitters.


All the Sages

It’s not at all uncommon to see White Sage recommended in recipes, cocktail and otherwise. This is natural as it’s flavor – and effect – are so similar to its commonly cultivated cousins. Cleveland and Hummingbird Sage can also be used as garnish or in any manner you might use White Sage. Cleveland Sage can have a bit of a numbing quality, which can make for an interesting cocktail or tea.


Yucca Whipplei

Our Lord’s Candle sits on so many of our top native plant lists, and this is one is no exception. It’s blooms are simply spectacular – no one will forget a cocktail garnished with them! They also have a beautiful crunch and crisp, light, slightly bitter flavor. They may also be useful after cocktails made of other natives – both the blooms and the roots are delicious deep fried!
Whatever you find in your cup this season, we hope it brings you great joy! If you have a recipe you’d like to share, please send it… we love hearing and learning from you.

More Information

Chumash Museum: Cooking the Native Way
Eat Your Drink
Farm to People: 5 Ways to Use [California Native Plant] Bitters
Vice: Woman Makes Cocktails in the Forrest
Follow FormLA Landscaping’s board Tips: Edible Gardens on Pinterest.
Follow FormLA Landscaping’s board Tips: California Edible Recipes on Pinterest.

Sources and Inspiration