You've heard of edible landscaping, but after a couple of hours tending to your garden, you'll be grateful that yours is drinkable, too. Do yourself a favor and add an herb section so you're sure to have some mint (spearmint, not peppermint), basil and lavender at your fingertips. Infuse them, boil them down into simple syrup or use them as a garnish — nothing tastes like summer quite like a cocktail fresh from the garden.
To make simple syrup, gather a cup of your herb of choice and combine with a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Take the pot off the burner, add a lid, and let cool before straining into a clean container — like a squeeze bottle. This can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks.
Be as imaginative as you'd like, or stick with the classics. Start experimenting with lemon verbena, sage, basil, cilantro, rosemary or lavender.
Lavender in the form of simple syrup can sweeten up anything from limoncello to Champagne. Play up its elegance by using a stem to garnish your Champagne flute. If you want the sweetest, most robust flavor for your lavender drink, plant lavendula angustifolia, or English lavender. Plants grow strongest if you start them indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost or sow in your garden in late summer/early fall — and make sure to add winter protection!
Since this herb won't be growing in your own backyard until next summer, head to your local farmers market (when in bloom) to pick some up, or visit Crystal Bertholic, bartender at Ruins, and ask for the Lavender's Blue: London dry gin, lemon, lavender, coffee, orange, bitters and soda.
If you don't have the patience to watch herbs grow and a trip to the farmers market isn't in the cards, visit one of Spokane's craft bartenders. For starters, try the Blueberry Basil Drop (organic basil muddled with blueberries, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and vodka, $9) or the Spokane 74 (house-infused rosemary gin, fresh grapefruit and lemon with sparkling wine and a drop of crème de violette, $9) at Wild Sage. Then head over to the Peacock Room to test out their herbal concoctions.
SUDS & SNEAKERS
If the summer weather isn't enough to make you feel good about imbibing, make your way over to the Lantern Tap House for an evening run. After a loop with their running club, replenish your carbohydrates with the special they offer after every run — a pint, half an entrée and a side ($8). Though not everyone agrees that beer is a viable recovery drink after a workout (it lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol, but also is associated with slower muscle recovery), it sure tastes good after a muggy run. Need another reason to throw on your running shoes? Every time you sign in for a run, they donate a dollar to charity. How's that for a feel-good workout? The club meets Tuesdays at 6 pm.
A EUROPEAN STAYCATION
This June, your taste buds can take a European tour for only $20 a night, courtesy of Rocket Market's Frugal Traveler Series. Spread out across three evenings, the series features wines ($8-$13 a bottle) from France, Italy and Spain. The tasting includes eight wines, artisan cheese and bread from Bouzies Bakery. Those who attend all three frugal traveler events will receive a free pass for a future Rocket Market wine event. June 12 (France), 19 (Italy) and 26 (Spain) at 7 pm. RSVP to 343-2253.
SCHWEITZER IN THE SUMMER
The lack of snow may have kept skiers from Schweitzer this past winter, but an abundant precipitation of booze will make up for it over the summer.
First, gear up for North Idaho's unofficial start to summer: the annual Schweitzer Summer Celebration on June 28. Sample local beer, wine and food and enjoy free live music and chairlift rides from 11 am to 5 pm. Summer amenities will be up and running, so be prepared for mountain biking, geocaching and wall climbing.
On July 18, Schweitzer hosts the Mountain Music & Wine Festival. While you're strolling through "Wine Alley" and sampling wines from 20 regional wineries (tasting packages $5-$27) you'll be serenaded by three yet-to-be-announced bands, bask in the scent of barbecue wafting in the mountain air and circulate through stalls of arts and craft vendors. Wine tasting 11 am-8 pm; music noon-8 pm. Want to get in a morning run before the tasting begins? Schweitzer is hosting its fourth annual Mountain Trail Run at 10 am. Go to smtrailrun.com to register.
Wrap up the summer with Fall Fest (hey, most of September is still technically summer!), formerly Oktoberfest. The three-day event runs Sept. 5-7, and typical of Schweitzer festivals, features live music, chairlift rides and in the spirit of Oktoberfest, plenty of beer on tap.
For more information on Schweitzer events, check out schweitzer.com/events-activities/.
THE PERFECT PAIRING
Wine and cheese may be the go-to, but distinguished Pilates instructor Larkin Barnett is adding flavor to her class by pairing wine with yoga and Pilates. The class ($15) is held on Tuesdays at 5:30 pm at Barrister Winery. RSVP to [email protected].
GIRLS PINT OUT
Summer might not seem like the opportune time to try out a new organization, what with sporadic travel schedules and such. Conveniently, Girls Pint Out, a national craft beer organization for women, has chapters all over the country. Hop on over and join the Inland Northwest chapter at the Backyard in Spokane the second Wednesday of the month from 6:30-8:30 pm, or at the Cork and Tap in Coeur d'Alene the third Thursday of the month at the same time. If you're needing a break from a family vacation, visit girlspintout.org to see if there's an outing planned in your destination. Craft beer and friendship — the only thing that could (and does) make this organization better? No membership fees or dues!
Pregnant, breastfeeding, underage or plain old not drinking, there are plenty of refreshing non-alcoholic beverages to test out this summer. Oh, and since you're "limited" in your options, you get first dibs on all the non-alcoholic beverages.
Get creative with hydration: with all the fruits and veggies in season, there's no reason to be drinking unadorned water. Sweeten things up by infusing your H2O with strawberries, cucumbers, lemon, mint — any fruit, veggie or edible herb you can think of.
Lemonade has been a summer classic since the invention of sugar, lemon and water, but try stirring things up by doing a twist. Watermelon lemonade, raspberry lemonade, marionberry lemonade. The possibilities end only with the final days of berry season.
If you're looking to get out of the house, head over to Clover to try their ginger lime mint soda, cucumber lemonade or seasonal cream soda (all $4), or go to your favorite happy hour spot and ask for a drink sans spirits. Visit Inlander.com/drinkspotter for the local happy hour deals.
BARK 'N' BREW
This dog-friendly event boasts barbecue and a beer garden, and proceeds benefit H.E.L.P — Help Every Little Paw, a Coeur d'Alene nonprofit that rescues abandoned, stray or neglected pets. If the beer doesn't suck you in, maybe the adorable acronym will. June 21 from 1-6 pm at Silver Mountain Ski Resort. Call (208) 659-6408. ♦