Someday I hope to have an ambitious garden, with tomatoes and blueberries, a lemon tree and salad greens, but for this first year with a backyard, I've focused on basil. It's in a sunny spot, planted in an old wine barrel and frequently watered, and there's going to be lots of it (if all goes according to plan). Mostly, I plan to use it in a classic tomato-and-mozzarella salad and sprinkled on grilled pizza, but as my plants begin to shoot up above the planter's rim, I'm starting to dream big. And for me, that means drinks.
Basil is a nice addition to plenty of easy cocktails: add a torn leaf or two to your gin and tonic, or tap a little into the bottom of your mojito. But these 5 drinks were specifically designed to feature the fresh green flavor of this herb, and they're all just right for summer sipping.
Basil Lime Cooler
An easy basil-flavored syrup forms the core of this refreshing highball, balanced with lots of tart lime juice and spiked with vodka. (If you want to experiment with spirits, try this one with gin or tequila, too—the herbal flavors will thrive with the fresh basil addition.) Don't forget to garnish each glass with a basil sprig; the aroma is an essential part of the experience.
Honey Basil Lemonade
Ok, it helps to have a citrus juicer for this one, but if you do, this tasty and unusual fresh lemonade is pretty darn easy to make, and a great way to use up masses of fresh summer basil. A pinch of salt brings out the flavor of the citrus and herbs.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Bellini with Basil
There's nothing wrong with a classic Bellini, but if you want to have a little fun, try exploring variations on the theme. Here, tart rhubarb and strawberries come together in a syrup infused with fresh basil. A little goes in each glass, topped with a pour of chilled sparkling wine. (No need to use something super-fancy for these; feel free to use your favorite affordable Cava or Prosecco.)
Cucumber and Basil Slush
As temperatures and humidity rise, having some frozen drinks in your arsenal becomes more and more essential. This one offers double-cooling action with loads of ice and a soothing cucumber in the mix, plus fresh lime and basil. Vodka's an easy partner that won't dominate the flavor—try Karlsson's Gold, which has a slightly floral side and rich texture—but if you prefer another spirit, feel free to experiment.
Pomelo and Basil Cocktail
If you've never tried pomelo before, a cocktail's a great way to start. These big citrus fruits (they look like giant grapefruits) are tart and slightly sweet, and especially good when paired with herbs. Gin is the perfect addition to this shaken cocktail, served in a chilled cocktail glass.
Have you made any great cocktails with fresh basil? Tell us about your favorites in the comments section!