Flower Power


April 7, 2024

Words by: Marcia J. Hamm

Springing ahead with blooming beverages

April is a month of anticipation as we say goodbye to snow, and welcome longer days filled with sunshine. It’s time to prepare the patio and plan long-awaited outdoor gatherings. Take a walk through a favourite greenhouse to see and smell the flowers on display. Let them inspire you to create a cocktail that is pretty to look at, and delicious to drink. 

For fans of the gin and tonic, a Gin Rickey provides a great alternative because it uses soda instead of tonic. The cocktail is named for Joe Rickey, a popular political figure during the late 1800s who spent time campaigning for President Grover Cleveland. While on the campaign trail one hot summer, a bartender at the local watering hole in D.C. made this drink per Rickey’s specifications using rye whisky as the base spirit. After that, Rickeys of various makes and strengths were created with bourbon, brandy, and gin—the latter soon eclipsing all others as the spirit of choice. 

While the original Gin Rickey is a tried-and-true recipe, a bit of lavender syrup works well to lend a touch of sweetness and florality. Many specialty food shops carry pre-made syrups, but if you want to make one from scratch, research first to find out which flowers are safe to consume. An optional float made with butterfly pea flower powder gives a pop of colour, and a sprig of lavender adds a pretty finishing touch.

Lemon Lavender Gin Rickey
Yields 2

4 oz gin
1½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ oz lavender syrup
6 oz club soda or sparkling water
4 to 6 ice cubes

Lavender syrup:
3 tbsp dried, food-grade lavender flower buds
1 c sugar
1 c water

Add ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Once the syrup has cooled, strain out the lavender and store in a jar in the fridge. 

1 tsp blue butterfly pea flower powder (available online or at specialty shops)
4 oz cold water

Combine powder and water in a small measuring cup and stir until dissolved. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

2 lemon wheels
2 lavender sprigs

Fill two Collins glasses with ice. Set aside. In a bar glass, combine gin, lemon juice and lavender syrup. Stir to combine, and split the amount between the glasses. Top each glass with 3 ounces of club soda or sparkling water. If finishing with the float, slowly pour a few teaspoons of the mixture on top and garnish with a lemon wheel and lavender sprig. 

The hibiscus is a tropical tree with beautiful flowers that can be white, red, pink, yellow, or orange. Red hibiscus powder added to a simple syrup creates a vibrant cranberry colour along with a tartness that works well in cocktails. That astringency also helps to temper a fiery spirit like bourbon, as in the recipe below.  

Tropical Hibiscus Bourbon

Yields 1
1½ oz bourbon
½ oz lemon juice
¾ oz orgeat (almond syrup)
1 oz hibiscus simple syrup
4 to 6 ice cubes
Crushed ice, enough to fill two rocks glasses

Simple syrup:
1 c water
1 c sugar
1 tbsp hibiscus powder (available online or at specialty shops)

Add ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and immediately turn down to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Once cooled, store in a jar in the fridge. 

In a cocktail shaker, combine bourbon, lemon juice, orgeat, and hibiscus simple syrup. Add ice cubes, then shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.


Floral syrups make for tasty non-alcoholic drinks, too. For a refreshing spring drink, simply add ¾ ounce of your favourite floral syrup (elderflower works well) to 6 ounces of sparkling water over ice.

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