I recently spent a week in the vicinity of Bar Harbor, Maine, and one night while perusing the dinner menu at the delightfully laid back Cafe This Way, one item among their cocktail selections caught my eye - basil lemonade. This very simple and refreshing drink consists of fresh lemonade, basil simple syrup, and vodka. It’s delightful, not overly sweet, and without the vodka you can serve it to anyone.
Herb-infused simple syrups are a terrific thing to keep on hand and a great way to enjoy what’s growing in your herb garden. In addition to making drinks like this one, you can use them to flavor iced tea or sweeten a fruit salad. If you like the basil simple syrup used here, try doing the same thing with mint and using that to sweeten your mojitos (or your iced tea). So what you have here this week are two very simple recipes, both of which can be made well ahead of time so that when you’re ready to relax on the porch with something cool at the end of a hot day, all you need to do is reach for a glass and pour.
As a side note, if you haven't made lemonade from scratch before, you're in for a revelation. It's easy to do, and it will cause you to swear off frozen concentrate and that godawful powdered stuff forever.
Basil Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup of packed basil leaves
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. I like to bruise the basil leaves a bit with a spoon while it’s heating. Remove pan from heat and let the basil steep in the syrup for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the syrup into a container.
1 cup basil simple syrup
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 - 4 cups cold water
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Start with three cups of water and taste before you add more. How tart the lemonade is will be a function of the lemons, so dilute it to your personal taste, adding more water if you’d like it more dilute, or more simple syrup if you’d like it a bit sweeter.
For a basil lemonade cocktail, put 2 oz. of vodka into a tall glass filled with ice. Fill the glass with basil lemonade and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil. Put on some good music and relax. It’s summertime.