Thursday, August 01, 2013

Slipping Into Summer Sippers

It certainly wasn't something I planned. And it's been one of the real delights of the summer, a result of the haphazard life of a freelance writer, at least the way it's practiced around my house.

The "art" of making syrups from herbs, vegetables and fruit requires little to no craft or skill beyond being able to boil water and measure things, and even that isn't particularly rigorous. A little more, a little less and you'll still be all right.

Lemon-basil gimlet.

My first experience was making an elderflower syrup, the hardest part being finding the elderflowers and picking them just as they were blooming, not too early and not too late. (Thanks to friends Linda, Hank and the always-generous Boutards, it turned out marvelously.) The second time it was a rhubarb syrup, a dead simple technique shared by the Davids (Padberg and Shenaut) at the Raven & Rose.

Like those two previous efforts, my latest involved help from a friend (my brother, Bruce) who discovered the recipe and served it to me a few years ago. And, as with the other syrups, it makes a fabulously refreshing soda spritzer or a deliciously thirst-quenching summer cocktail.

All it takes is basil from your garden or the farmers' market, the fresher the better, a strip or two of lemon peel and some sugar and in little more than an hour you're ready to sit back and sip.

Lemon Basil Syrup

1 c. basil leaves, packed firmly
1 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
3 (2-inch by 1-inch) strips lemon peel

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 1 hour. Chill in refrigerator or, if you're in a hurry, set pan in shallow bowl of ice water to chill more quickly.

* * *

Lemon Basil Spritzer

1 1/2 oz. lemon basil syrup
Soda water
Sprigs of mint and basil for garnish (optional)

Fill pint glass with ice. Add syrup. Fill with soda water and stir until combined. Add herb sprigs.

* * *

Lemon Basil Gimlet
Makes one cocktail

1 oz. gin (we like Hendrick's)
1 1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. lemon basil syrup
Small sprig of basil for garnish (optional)

Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice. Add gin, lemon juice and syrup. Shake, then strain into a cocktail glass.

This cocktail also works well with vodka, but then it won't have the added herbal qualities of the gin, which we prefer. To make a pitcher of gimlets for a party, please see the recipe on my brother's blog and substitute gin for the vodka. Or not!


Rebecca said...

My basil plants are at full throttle and this recipe sounds perfect! Never tried making an herbal syrup - now's as good a time as any. Thanks, Kathleen! =)

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Rebecca. Let me know what you think!

Barbara said...

Thank you for posting this, Kathleen! We've made it three times, and have invented a drink. About two ounces of the lemon-basil syrup, six ounces of plain black-tea kombucha, and a shot of Scotch or other whiskey. We call it the regruvenator. Somehow we haven't been in the mood for pesto lately, so here's a great way to use the basil.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Awesome, Barbara! We'll have to give your cocktail a try. Thanks for sharing.