Secret Garden Cocktail

Secret Garden Cocktail

Inspired by the Persian paradise, earthy elements of beech ‘honeydew’ honey and rhum agricole frolic with sweet basil and lovely lemongrass in this elixir. The perfume of the Amazon’s passion fruits and the purest spring of artisan water seduce lovers. Capture this heady moment with the “Secret Garden.”

1 serving


1 1/2 ounces of lemongrass-infused rhum agricole
2/3 ounce of fresh purple passion fruit juice
1/2 ounce of New Zealand beech ‘honeydew’ honey
2 ounces of artisan water (recommended: high silica)
15 medium to large sweet basil leaves

For the lemongrass-infused rhum agricole:
(Approximately 8 stalks) 200g of lemongrass (recommended cultivar: West-Indian)
23 ounces of rhum agricole

For the fresh purple passion fruit juice:
At least 3 small passion fruits

Total: about 5 ounces per serving (guide for glassware)


Utility knife and cutting board
Pot (around 1 quart capacity) with cover
Fine-sieve strainer
Glass half of 2-piece Boston shaker
3-piece Cobbler shaker
Glass bottle (perhaps reused from finished spirits, at least 23 ounces in capacity)
Small glass bottle (about two ounces in capacity)
Cocktail glass (6 ounces), for service


Chill the glassware in the fridge.

For the lemongrass-infused rhum agricole:
Remove the first few layers of leaves from each stalk of lemongrass and wash thoroughly. Slice the bulbous base thinly, though you should cut the whole stalk. Place the lemongrass into the pot of cool rhum agricole and then start to simmer at low to medium heat for 40-50 minutes, taking care to maintain the simmer while the pot is covered. Leave pot aside to cool down, keeping lid on. Strain into a glass bottle with the funnel and discard the herbs. Refrigerate until ready for use.

For the fresh purple passion fruit juice:
It is best to prepare this at the last moment before use. Set up the glass half of the Boston shaker with the strainer on top. Wash the passion fruit and cut it cross-wise, and scoop out the flesh and seeds into the strainer. Use the muddler to rupture and push more of the passion fruit juice through the strainer. Keep in a sealed bottle in the fridge until ready to use.

Prepare the cocktail:
Add the honey and artisan water into the glass half of the Boston shaker and stir till honey is well dissolved. Add this to the 3-piece Cobbler shaker.

Clean the fresh basil leaves thoroughly, and add it into the glass half of the Boston shaker together with the required lemongrass-infused rhum agricole. With the flat side of the muddler placed into the base, apply downward pressure using the insides of your palm. Muddle until most of the solid ingredients are well broken up. Strain into the 3-piece Cobbler shaker.

Measure the required amount of the other ingredients into the 3-piece Cobbler shaker.

Top up the Cobbler shaker (about 3/4 full) with the spring water ice cubes. Attach the top half with the built-in strainer, followed by the cap and lid (this sequence prevents too much air from being trapped inside). Shake and chill the cocktail shaker with firm, concise and vigorous strokes until your hands can’t take the cold.

Strain into the glassware, straight up.

[Flavor Impressionist’s notes: 1 ounce is equivalent to 30 milliliter (ml), 1/2 ounce is equivalent to 15 milliliter (ml), 2/3 ounces is equivalent to 20 milliliter (ml).

If available, it is preferable to use organic produce, especially for the lemongrass and basil.

Taste the passion fruit juice before use — do not use if it is too acidic or unripe.

Rhum agricole is agricultural rum, which is distilled from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It is differentiated from other agricultural rums in that it enjoys a geographic certification of its origin, recognized for exceptional quality, much like the AOC quality appellation of French wines.

Beech ‘honeydew’ honey from the South Island of New Zealand has a distinctive earthy flavor, produced by bees collecting nectar processed by two specific insects (Ultracoelostoma assimile and U. brittini), which in turn have sucked the sap from the Black Beech or Red Beech trees. Generally, ‘Honeydew’ is also known as ‘forest honey,’ ‘pine honey’ and ‘fir honey.’]

Serve immediately.


A possible alternative to the ‘honeydew’ honey may be Manuka honey. For the rum, other agricultural rum can be an alternative.

Recipe and photo by Damian Sim


From the borders between Tien Shan, China and Kazakhstan originates malus sieversii — the sole ancestor of the domesticated apple. From one of the earliest cultivated fruit trees, apples are popular across numerous cultures, with the Asian palate generally preferring a sweeter taste, with just a touch of acidity. It is interesting to note that fresh apples float, as a quarter of their volume is air.

In ancient Greek and Roman cultures apples were a symbol of beauty and love, and were originally tossed at the newly wedded couple (thankfully we no longer do that!). It is also a traditional gift for teachers in USA, Denmark and Sweden, originally given to supplement the poorly paid teachers during the 16-18th century. Nobles were known to maintain their own fruit orchards/gardens, where apples were definitely featured. Interestingly, pairidaeza, Persian for ‘walled garden,’ translates to paradisus in Latin, which is where the word for paradise originates; this word was also used to refer to the Garden of Eden. Apples are a symbol of seduction (forbidden fruit) as well, and their seeds are actually mildly poisonous (due to amygdalin). There is also the legend of “John Appleseed” (1774-1845), an eccentric American whose dream was to plant the land with so many apple trees, there would never be hunger again.

During Shakespeare’s time (16th Century), roasted apple desserts were served with a saucer of caraway seeds. This pairing inspired me to use sweet basil, which has a somewhat aromatic bouquet too, though floral and more clove-like as compared to the sweet and spicy anise-like caraway. Basil is also known as basileus, ‘king’ in Greek. Though enjoying somewhat darker reputations in the past with its associations with afterlife and even hatred (ancient Greece) and the Devil (ancient Europe), basil is a symbol of love in modern Italy. These contrasting reputations extend to it being revered in Hinduism and Christianity (believed to have been found around Christ’s tomb after his resurrection). [Note: See more on basil’s storied history in our Basilicum Tormentum article.]

As part of the foundation for this cocktail designed to pair with apples, a sweet, earthy agricultural rum was chosen, specifically rhum agricole, which has an AOC regional appellation (like French wines) for quality. The rhum is infused with lemongrass for an added sensuous citrus profile, and purple passion fruit is added for a perfumed sharpness. Incidentally, the Spanish missionaries named this fruit (from the Amazon) for its anatomical symbolism of the Crucifixion (Passion of Christ).

To balance these elements, the sweet nectar of bees is used — namely Beech ‘Honeydew’ honey from New Zealand’s South Island. From the sweet beech forest, the honey produced here is uniquely earthy (malty). This is tempered by artisan water high in the essential ‘beauty’ mineral — silica (important to the health of skin, bones and hair).

These seductive perfumed and spicy notes complemented by an earthy base paint a majestic Persian paradise to which lovers escape, its golden hue revealing a “Secret Garden.”