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Whether you’re a professional bartender or cocktail enthusiast, you’ve probably had the annoying experience of gathering a beautiful bunch of fresh herbs, only to have them wilt by the end of the night.
The question of how to keep your leafy herbs fresh came up recently in our Craft Bartender Community on Facebook, and there were some amazing suggestions for extending the shelf life of mint leaves and fresh basil (and more!) from several experienced bartenders.
So don’t cry over yucky, soft leaves anymore– We’re here with a basic guide on how to stretch out the average life span and shelf life of your delicate herbs.
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If you work at a bar or restaurant, you obviously want your garnishes to look fresh all night. Here are some pro tips for keeping leaves green so that your cocktails wow your customers from opening to close.
Just like you would with fresh flowers, our community members suggest putting your bunches of herbs in a water glass during a restaurant shift. (This would also work for a cocktail party). Placing your common herbs in water is a great short-term way to keep them fresh for a couple hours during service.
Of course, this isn’t long term storage, so you can combine this with any other idea in the section below– if you haven’t used all your fresh mint for mojitos in one night, that is!
It’s such a bummer (and waste of money) to throw out fresh mint or a beautiful basil plant that has succumbed to brown leaves. To keep your southsides looking their best, try this effective method– which adds a step before you put your herbs in a water glass– suggested by several pro bartenders in our group.
The idea is to “shock” the fresh mint in cold water. The cold temperatures effectively freeze the plant at its freshest.
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You can modify the first two methods by shocking your mint leaves in cold water first and then putting them in a glass of warm water. Some bartenders swear by this!
“How I display them is first have a container filled with crushed ice and water. Dunk the sprigs into the water and hold for around 10-15 secs. The leaves will be “shocked” into place. In another container– for me a copper mug works great– fill with warm, but not scolding hot, water. Put the leaves in the mug, and they should hold and look fresh all service.” –John Olmos, Craft Bartender Community
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For keeping mint, basil, and other leafy greens past beverage service and at home, here are a few other suggestions for extended storage.
One of the most common storage methods is to use a dampened paper towel in an airtight container. The paper towel gives your fresh herbs moisture, keeping them alive for up to a week or two– but you don’t want too much moisture! Be careful not to soak the paper towel. I often use a dry paper towel for storing cilantro and parsley.
You can also combine this storage technique with the Vestinos Method to shock your herbs before storing them.
It’s a well-known fact that citric acid keeps foods fresh, which is why it’s a commonly-used preservative. Use this same concept, and squeeze a little lemon over your herbs before you pack them away in the refrigerator, rather than using a paper towel.
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Some of our Craft Bartender Community members insist that herb keepers keep everything crisp and fresh. Bonus: It reduces additional waste by avoiding plastic bags!
After sitting your greens in a water cup, you can store it in the fridge by covering it.
Maintain the freshness of your mint and basil by letting potted herbs live on your kitchen counter (where they have access to indirect sunlight) or planting an herb garden outside.
You can also help store-bought herbs stay fresh and growing by replanting it after tip #4, changing out the water ever 48 hours:
“Keep it growing.
Change the water every 48 hours. The mint will keep growing for weeks. You need to keep it covered, though. Leaves draw water up through stalks, leaves perspire water, so the plant constantly recycles the water. Re-cut stalks a couple of millimeters every so often. Keep in cold water for service. Replant after.” –Marcus Deaves, Craft Bartender Community
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Of course, you can combine some of these techniques to create your own system. Trim the stem bases of your tender herbs, and then store them in a resealable plastic bag with a damp cloth. Or put your bunch of basil in a bit of water like a bouquet of flowers, and then put them in cold water to “freeze” and store them.
Do you use a certain method to avoid wilted leaves? How do you take care of your fresh mint, basil leaves, and other savory herbs? Whether store-bought or from your garden, you want your chosen herb to stay fresh for longer– even if just a couple of days– so you can make more cocktails!
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