This year, for the first time, I have successfully grown a fine crop of basil. I think it’s thanks to what has been an extended spring – instead of the way our weather often abruptly transitions from winter into broiling summer. Basil is a great herb to have on hand, so seeing that bright green patch of goodness thriving in the back garden is cause for happiness, as is finding a new use for it in a cocktail.
Don’t get me wrong; I love a good ol’ “regular”margarita. And I have on occasion enjoyed a strawberry version, though when made from a mix they usually are too sweet for my taste. But when I ran across the recipe below I headed straight for the blender.
STRAWBERRY BASIL MARGARITA
½ pint fresh hulled strawberries
½ cup blanco tequila
1-½ oz Cointreau
1 lime, juiced (about 1 oz.)
1 Tbsp. honey
6 basil sprigs
Rim three glasses with lime and roll edges in kosher salt.
Fill each glass with ice.
Place berries, tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and honey into a blender.
Blend thoroughly on high until berries are pulverized.
Roughly chop basil and place in a cocktail shaker; muddle well to crush the leaves.
Combine the blender ingredients and the muddled basil in a pitcher and stir vigorously to incorporate.
Strain into the prepared glasses.
Garnish with a half strawberry and a basil sprig.
When you taste this you will, I think, agree with my assessment: Summer in a glass! Notice this makes three drinks, or maybe just two for the deserving. Obviously, a pitcherful would be ideal for that long-awaited porch gathering or picnic.
I started thinking about other herbs that might mix up nicely. I perused our herb garden and the mint immediately brought the mint julep and mojito to mind. But what else? I have a pretty hefty stand of thyme. Thyme is under-appreciated most of the year, typically only getting its moment when the turkey is prepped at Thanksgiving. But it blends beautifully in an adult version of lemonade.
SPIKED THYME LEMONADE
First make a batch of thyme-infused simple syrup by combining 1-½ cups sugar, 2 cups of water, and a large bunch of fresh thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir for about 2 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely.
Stir in two cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 10 lemons – hope you have a juicer!) and 1 cup of gin (a floral version, like Bloom, would work well).
Place in a covered pitcher and refrigerate at least overnight and up to one week. Serve with plenty of ice and thyme sprigs for a garnish.
It might be tempting, but setting up a roadside stand to sell your concoction is probably not a good idea.
One herb that grows quite prolifically in this area, so much so that it can stand in as a shrub, is rosemary.