Anyone can go the farmers market and shop for dinner ingredients. Even more fun is going to the market and shopping for cocktail ingredients! With that thought in mind and the impending arrival of friends for our pal Denise's birthday dinner that we were whipping up yesterday (many recipes to come from that off-the-hook soirée, I promise!), w and I hit the local Hollywood (yes, there's a Hollywood neighborhood in Portland. Don't ask me why.) farmers market to grab big green, fragrant, beautiful looking bunches of basil for this awesome Basil Vodka Gimlet to welcome our guests in refreshing style on a sweltering summer evening.
I saw this recipe last year in Food and Wine. Now I am a huge fan of the traditional gin gimlet, especially made with Hendrick's gin. This FW recipe caught my eye because it looked so delicious and made with such a seasonal ingredient. How often do you get to make "seasonal" cocktails? Anyway, we made them once last year to great applause, and I've been jonesing for them since. I'm telling you, if you want to wow your guests with an easy, perfectly balanced, incredibly flavorful, and absolutely delicious drink, this is it!
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Basil Vodka Gimlets
makes six drinks
note: the recipe calls for stirring them in a pitcher and serving them in an 8 to 10 ounce highball glass filled with ice. I much prefer them shaken and served up, so the nuanced flavors don't dilute in the melting ice.
1 cup basil lemon syrup (recipe follows)
3/4 to 1 cup vodka
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Mix together all three ingredients in a pitcher. Fill cocktail shaker 3/4 full of ice. Pour enough mixture to just cover the ice cubes. Shake the hell out of it. Strain into martini glasses. Repeat as necessary!
Garnish with basil sprigs or lemon twists if you want.
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Basil Lemon Syrup
makes about 5 cups
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
9 or 10 (3-by 1") strips of lemon peel
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium sauce pan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for one hour, then transfer to refrigerator to chill for one hour. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids.
* Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 5 days.