Basil heaven, otherwise known as a Basil-Gin Smash

So next time you go to the farmer’s market or to your garden, if you are so lucky, grab some extra basil.  Taking a page from the whiskey sours I posted last time, we are going to do something similar but with gin and with the addition of fresh basil leaves.  This is a great indian summer drink and a wonderful way to use up some of that fresh basil you have hanging around.

If you have a favorite gin, then, by all means use it.  I have happened upon Boodles, which is relatively cheap and works for me.  I occasionally buy more expensive gins when I want to experiment and feel a little flush.

As this drink, like the whiskey sour uses simple syrup, I’m going to use this blog as an excuse to talk a little more about simple syrup.  So simple syrups are 1 part white sugar to 1 part water.  You throw them both in a sauce pan and heat to a boil, stirring occasionally.  And then remove from the heat and let cool.  You are basically just dissolving the sugar in the water.  I keep mine in a sterilized, (read: went through the dishwasher) recycled glass peanut butter jar in the refrigerator.  I have found it will last well over a month that way.  If it is clear and smells fine, it is fine.  There are plenty of variations on simple syrups including “rich” simple syrups and flavored/infused simple syrups which I can’t wait to talk to you about soon.

So along with the gin and simple syrup, the other ingredients for our drink today are fresh lemon juice and 5-6 basil leaves per drink.

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Basil-Gin Smash

(recipe kindly shared by the Esquire Tavern of San Antonio)

Partially fill a shaker or clean jar with ice.  Add:

5-6 whole basil leaves*

2 ounces of gin

3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce of simple syrup (see recipe here)

Put lid or top on shaker and shake ingredients hard for 20-30 seconds.  Strain into a chilled coupe/martini/wine glass.

The drink will have a beautiful basil-green hue to it.  Add a garnish of a fresh basil leaf.

* Note that you are not muddling the basil a la a Mojito, it will ruin the drink to do that, let the ice smashing up against the leaves pull the flavor from the basil for you.  

Clean eating meets craft cocktails

Like many people, over the lastDSC02879 few years or more, I have found myself cutting out processed food, eating local grown produce and generally invoking higher standards on my dining.  And while I have always bought pretty good booze, (otherwise what’s the point), I had never carried over these principles to my drinking.  I bought pre-made margarita mix and sour mix right out of the grocery store.

And then one day, as I went to mix a whiskey sour, I realized the sour mix was full of chemicals, and it tasted lousy.  A little online searching found some super easy three-ingredient recipes for homemade sour mix.  And that was my entree into craft cocktails which are simple whole ingredients mixed in alluring combinations to make delicious cocktails unsullied by preservatives and artificial flavored crap.

And so I give you the first cocktail I started making from scratch, the Whiskey Sour.  First, the liquor.  I use Irish whiskey or rye (which technically makes it a rye sour) in my sours.   I am a believer in having ‘house’ liquors, sort of like having house wines.  My ‘house’ whiskey is Jameson’s and my ‘house’ rye is Redemption.  You can also use any good quality whiskey or rye however.   Next the sour mix.  Sour mix is basically simple syrup mixed with lemon juice.  The simple syrup is simply sugar and water heated together to make a syrup.  I use regular cane sugar in mine.  If you prefer not to, you could use raw sugar, which will deepen the flavor a little.   Lastly, you need lemon juice.  Fresh squeezed lemon juice really does make a difference.  And fortunately, lemons are available all seasons and never cost that much to buy.  The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry.  Please for the love of god, do not ruin this beautiful cocktail with a regular artificially colored and flavored maraschino cherry.  In specialty stores you can find Luxardo maraschino cherries, imported from Italy, they are cherries preserved in sugar syrup.  If you prefer to make your own, you can soak some fresh or dried cherries in bourbon, overnight or for a few days, and use those.

Whiskey Sours

Partially fill a cocktail shaker or clean jar with ice.

Add:

2 ounces of whiskey or rye

0.75 ounces of lemon juice*

0.75 ounces of simple syrup*

Shake and strain into a coupe or other “up” cocktail glass.  It can also be served over ice in a highball glass.

*The ratio of lemon juice to simple syrup is a very personal thing.  After tasting the drink, if you prefer it sweeter or more sour, add simple syrup or lemon juice to your taste.  You can just toss the whole thing back in the shaker, add your ingredient, reshake and strain.

Note: You can make this a stronger drink by using 2.5 ounces of whiskey.  You can make it lighter by topping it with some seltzer water.