I planted a ton of basil this year, hoping to use it in a classic tomato-and-mozzarella salad and sprinkled on grilled pizza. But as my basil plants begin to shoot up above the planter's rim, I'm starting to dream big. And for me, that means drinks.
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A few weeks ago I found myself with a bushel of basil—I was in over my head with bunches of the herb and needed to use them up asap. After making the prerequisite pestos, I ventured into pizza and even a basil and lime sorbet, which got me thinking. Those two flavors are perfect summer partners—refreshing and full of flavor—so they can only get better with the addition of a little booze, right?
Creating cocktails is all about experimenting and doing a little digging, especially when we're in between seasons like we are now. Without an abundance of new, exciting fruit and veggies popping up at the market each week, things can start to feel a little humdrum. But your drinks needn't suffer—during times like these, lean on fresh herbs and perhaps a spice or two to jazz up your libations.
When asked how he is inspired to come up with new drinks, Bourbon and Branch bar manager Ian Scalzo says, "Cookbooks. I look for flavor profiles that I can accomplish with booze, and map it out from there." The drinks almost all use fresh herbs and spices, often in combinations rarely seen outside the kitchen. You'll find these cocktails have a remarkable freshness and fullness of flavor. Best of all, the newest batch of cocktails is perfect for fall, when a little nutmeg in my Porto Flip couldn't be more welcome.
We are in between seasons a bit. There are hot days and chilly days, and sometimes what comes with this weather is a case of the sniffles. Balance it all out with "Tame The Elements," a sparkling water-based drink at Tbar in Philadelphia. The fizzy herbal blend couples honeysuckle with Golden bell and Chinese bellflower.
The cocktail menu at Craftbar features some of the best herb-infused cocktails we've ever tried; Skiba uses spirits and liquors to bring out the essential character of each herb, from sage (with bourbon and Benedictine) to cilantro with jalapeno and mezcal to rosemary and lavender with gin. Check out the drinks and get the recipes to make them at home »