Perhaps the most widely imbibed conifer on the planet, this ancient plant dates to the Triassic period. Juniper berries are actually tiny cones with fleshy scales that take two to three years to ripen. A single shrub can hold berries in all stages of ripeness, so they are harvested by spreading a tarp underneath and beating the plant with a stick to make the ripe cones fall off. By law, a spirit must contain some juniper to be called gin.
Grains of Paradise
A common gin ingredient, this West African ginger relative produces tiny, spicy seeds. It has flavored spirits and beers for centuries, but it’s also a staple food of western lowland gorillas. Zookeepers discovered that without this vital food source, captive gorillas developed heart disease.
This silvery Mediterranean herb is best known as a flavoring in absinthe, but it is also used to add a note of bitterness to most vermouths. In fact, the word “vermouth” is derived from early forms of “wormwood”—and that name came from the belief that the plant could kill intestinal worms.
A relative of jasmine, lilac, and garden sage, olives have been cultivated in the Mediterranean for seven thousand years, and individual trees live to be hundreds of years old.