To celebrate one month after the launch of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, I hosted a Q&A about my book on The Gourmantic Garden Instagram stories. Here is the transcript of the questions and answers, along with other questions that I have been asked along the way.
Q&A About My Book: GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN
How did the idea to write a cocktail garden come from?
The idea for the book germinated early in February 2021 after Gardening Australia filmed my segment, Botanical Beverages. After spending an entire day talking about two passions, edible gardening and cocktails, and realising how much I knew, it was a light bulb moment.
How did you go about deciding which 50 plants to include?
I started by making a list and made sure there was enough variety be it flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit. I picked some of my favourite Australian natives such as native thyme and sea parsley. Then I started the culling process down to 50. I wanted to showcase botanicals that can easily be grown in a small space, be it a balcony, courtyard as well as a large backyard garden.
How did you pick the Australian native plants for the book? Was it difficult to choose?
Very! There were so many I wanted to include from my garden. In the end, I ranked my favourites and that helped me decide the must-haves for the book.
Are the plants in the book grouped by types, like herbs veg etc.
I believe life’s too short to figure out if a tomato is a vegetable or a fruit! It’s in A to Z format so it’s easy to find what you want to grow and what beverage you’d like to make with it. And yes, there is an A and a Z botanical.
Will it work for alcohol free people like me?
Totally! Not all recipes have alcohol, in fact, some drinks are better without it. That’s not a typo! Also, I have made sure to include non-alcoholic variations where possible as well as low alcohol options. Also, with recipes for syrups and shrubs etc, once you know how to make them, you can start getting creative with your own flavour combinations!
What was the hardest part to write? (assuming there was one!)
Seriously? The dedication. Not the person to whom I was dedicating the book. But the wording of it. How do you make it fun but not corny? Those of you who have purchased the book know what I mean ;)
I’m new to cocktails. Is the book for a newbie like me?
Absolutely! Part 1 of the book gives all the basics, be it gardening and cocktails. From essential tools, terminology, bar techniques, glassware and how to get started in sticking up a home bar. The same applies if you’re new to gardening. Hence the ‘equal parts’ in the title. And all the recipes have step by step instructions that are easy to follow.
What was the most frustrating thing you had to grow for the book?
I was most happy to see the last of the Kiwano/African Horned Cucumber! A prickly, messy and stubborn plant that refused to fruit for 2 seasons but came through in the end. The good news is that it made a delicious cocktail.
Will there be a paper version?
As much as I’d like to see it in print, (it truly is a beautiful book), unfortunately the cost is prohibitive. Furthermore, the digital format has more sustainability in mind.
Did you design the cover or had someone do it for you?
It’s all my work. It took a few iterations until I was happy with the final design, colours and fonts of the cover. In fact, it came together fairly quickly compared to other parts of the book.
I only have a small sunny balcony. Can I grow most of the plants in the book in pots?
The majority can be grown in small spaces. The Grow Guides have a section that tells you what the botanical is best suited to, from in ground to raised beds, hanging baskets, pots and recommended size so you’ll know at a glance if it will suit your space.
Favourite cocktail recipe?
There’s an all-Australian cocktail recipe using Australian native ingredients and my favourite Australian rye whiskey in the Native Thyme chapter. I called it, ‘Land of Plenty’ as the name embodies the diversity of our native botanicals.
Which part did you enjoy writing the least?
The appendices on identifying and managing pests and diseases organically. I had enough of bad bugs to last me a lifetime! By the end of it, I was dreaming of critters and garden pests. But it was worth the effort as it’s a very useful and handy reference guide.
What’s your favourite part of the book?
Part 2, taking the GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT concept and turning it into 50 glorious chapters with grow guides, tips for growing, flavour pairings and of course, over 85 recipes for cocktails, prep and botanical beverages.
Did you take your own photos?
I did. Part 1 of the cocktail garden book has illustrations and Part 2 is full of colour images starting with the 50 botanicals. Every recipe has a full page colour photos taken by me in the garden throughout the season. This was done with Mr TGG’s help in the set up, mixing drinks, and most importantly, distracting the birds from making a dive and spilling the cocktails!
How did you deal with writers’ block?
Easy. Go out in the garden, pull a few weeds and feel the sun on my back. Being surrounded by the greenery is the best feeling to clear the mind.
You’re a writer but did you have to teach yourself anything new for the book?
Setting up an e-commerce platform and payment gateway on this website was a steep learning curve. Also, the marketing aspect of the book and putting together a plan that works in my case and with my background was a challenge at the start.
Something you would do differently for the next book?
I would set up an easier MS Word template to work with instead of using one that kept changing fonts and formats every time I copied and pasted.
How did you come up with the title for the cocktail garden book?
Originally, I was going to call the book GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT but decided against it. The reason being that I’ll be publishing more books under the same banner and taking the concept further.
What advice would you give someone thinking about writing a book?
Think of it as a long term commitment. Make sure you’re highly knowledgeable and passionate about the topic, highly motivated and able to dedicate the time and effort required. Not just for writing the book, but for all the marketing and extras that you’ll need to do and whatever challenges come up along the way. Set yourself weekly and daily deadlines, have a project plan that you adhere to and update. My project management background came in very handy!
What will you be working on next?
There are a couple of titles that are in development and another I’m very excited about that is in the planning stage. But all in good time! Keep an eye out on my social media channels for updates.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Q&A about my book. GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN is the first title in the GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT books and is available as a digital download in pdf format.