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San Francisco was originally named for this plant, Yerba Buena. It means “good herb” in Spanish. The City’s name was changed to San Francisco in 1846. The botanical name for this plant is Satureja douglasii.
As you might imagine, it’s a California native plant. It’s easy to grow, smells delightful, and makes luscious mint juleps.
Yerba Buena Julep Recipe
To mix a truly local cocktail, use a Bay Area-bottled bourbon like B&E (Breaking & Entering) by St. George Spirits in Alameda or, if you’re willing to seriously break with tradition, Old Portrero Rye Whiskey, distilled in San Francisco.
3-4 six-inch long stems of yerba buena leaves
1/2 tablespoon simple syrup
4 ounces whiskey
1 three-inch long stem of yerba buena
Muddle the yerba buena and simple syrup in the bottom of a chilled old-fashioned glass. Fill the glass with ice (crushed is traditional), add the whiskey, and stir until the glass is frosty. Garnish with the yerba buena sprig, extending it above the rim of the glass.
It’s the perfect cocktail for a warm evening, sitting in your garden, listening to the Giants or the A’s game on the radio. Let me know how you like it.