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A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a wonderfully brilliant cocktail book, Wild Cocktails by Lottie Muir. The concept of this book is simple: go outdoors, into your garden or the forest, pick some elements of nature, and use them at home to make components: flavored liquors, shrubs, syrups. Then, combine the components into delightful and quite complex beverages.

Here the items are ones you probably don’t have in your home garden, unless you live in the lower sunbelt. You need citrus here, the more the merrier.

Classic cocktails have always had a bit of sweetness in the ingredients. Perhaps a spoonful of sugar, a squeeze of simple syrup. In prior centuries, when folks had a little time on their hands, they made Oleo Saccharum, literally an oily sugar. You can use this component anywhere you might have been using that simple syrup. But this sweetener is hardly simple.

The idea here is to muddle several types of citrus plus herbs and sugar. Let the mixture sit and, thanks to chemistry, in a couple of hours you’ll have the oily sugar that has magnificent taste and potential.

You can alter this recipe as you see fit — or as your grocery store enables you. You can substitute or add grapefruit or blood orange. Some rosemary or thyme can be employed, again in addition to or instead of the geranium, rosemary, and tarragon in the core recipe here.

Lottie Muir notes that in addition to being used as a cocktail component, the sugar can be mixed with a little water and the juices of the citrus employed to yield a vibrant lemonade.

Oleo Saccharum

Yield: about ½ cup


  • 2 unwaxed, organic oranges
  • 2 unwaxed, organic lemons
  • 2 unwaxed, organic bergamots
  • 5 scented geranium (Pelargonium) leaves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 sprig French tarragon
  • 1 cup superfine (caster) sugar


Zest the oranges, lemons, and bergamots with a vegetable peeler, and place in a bowl. Add the unwashed geranium leaves, herbs, and sugar. Mix everything together with your hands, then muddle using a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon to release all those wondrous oils. Cover with plastic wrap, lest the oils escape!

Leave for at least an hour, preferably two, coming back perhaps twice to give another little muddle and maybe add a bit more sugar. You will be left with exactly what it says: a sugary oil. Yum. Use immediately.

Source: Wild Cocktails by Lottie Muir [Cico Books, 2015]