Variation on a Gimlet with Mint & Basil

I’m starting to amass a large collection of infused/flavored simple syrups. Partly it’s that I keep surprising myself with how much syrup is left after I make a batch for a sorbet. And because I always just mindlessly make a 1 cup to 1 cup ratio every time I do a syrup. So yeah,  a lot of these bottles.

To try and start using them up I’ve been picking my brain for new ways to use them. Mint lattes? Why not! Basil lattes? No. Nononono… Adding them in to cocktails that I already know how to make? Sure, yeah, I guess.

That basil syrup is sure a hard one to be clever with. However, going with flavor profiles I was familiar with, I decided on making a variant of a gimlet.

With the addition of some fresh mint, this drink becomes very fragrant. The notes of both herbs are quite strong, but not powerfully “herbal”. Staying true to a gimlet, it’s also sweet and tart. Together it’s a lovely flavor combination.

6 mint leaves
1/2 oz basil simple syrup (recipe found through here)
2 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Mint leaf for garnish

Muddle the mint and basil simple syrup together. Add gin,  lime juice and fill shaker 2/3 full with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one mint leaf.

Make It: Mixed Berry Sorbet with Mint and Hendrick’s

This post has been staring at me for several days now. Recipes are backing up in the queue because this needs to go out. I want to share it, but for some reason it has seemed daunting writing it all down. There is no reason to shy away from it, it’s delicious and not that difficult to make. And the mint syrup gets used in a myriad of ways later on. So here it goes…

Tart, sweet and minty. Very minty depending on who you are talking to. I taste tested the recipe and found the mint here to be subtle, however my husband, who pretty much hates mint in desserts (I think he only finds mint tea acceptable) found it to be very strong. Keep this in mind while making the simple syrup. If you like a pretty subtle mint taste, maybe only a half cup of mint leaves will be best for you. And as always, try and get the ripest berries you can find. It creates a lovely sweetness and a heightened tartness that is enhanced by the addition of the lime.

Another note about this recipe. Using what I learned with the strawberry basil sorbet here, I increased the amount of alcohol to 2 ounces, making the consistency softer, even when frozen for 5+ hours. I actually prefer being able to scoop out the sorbet with little difficulty. And that Hendrick’s in there? You can totally taste it, in the background, adding a soft cucumber-gin flavor in both the smell and after-taste. Love it.

I made this over the course of a couple days, hence the crazy discrepancy in lighting. But also because I like to let the mixture sit and mingle for a day, letting the flavors come together.

First thing you need to do is make the Mint Simple Syrup.
1 cup of granulated cane sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of mint leaves

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Swirl to combine. Add the mint leaves and push into the liquid. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and leave mixture to chill, or at least bring to room temperature.Recipes yields about a cup and a half.

Second you need to make the berry mixture for the sorbet.
1 lb. of mixed berries ( I used 2:1 raspberries to blackberries)
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
3/4 cup of Mint Simple Syrup from recipe above

In a food processor, break up the berries and add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to process until smooth.

Strain out the mixture through a fine sieve or through a cheesecloth. Note: if you use a chinoise, make sure you have the proper wooden dowel to push the solids. Otherwise you will be standing for at least 20 minutes trying to strain out the mixture wishing you had one.

Chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours. Also, if you are using a kitchen-aid ice cream maker, throw the bowl and all the parts into the freezer. You want everything to be really cold when you go to mix later.

When your mixture is thoroughly chilled and mingled, start your ice cream maker and throw in your mixture. Sorbet only needs about 15 minutes to set. After set, scoop into freezer safe containers and freeze until solid.

Mint Julep// justifying an ice crusher

This week I was bombarded with recipes for smashes. So much so that I couldn’t get the idea of purchasing an ice crusher out of my head. Then I found a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon in a pile of mail and figured I could justify spending $30 on one. I mean, it would be countless happy drinking moments this summer if I had one. Also, if it broke I’m not out a whole lot of money.

I excitedly got it home, out of the box and washed it. Opened up a bottle of liquor and…couldn’t get a smash recipe right to save my life. Everything tasted awful. Six tries later I gave up and poured myself some bourbon over ice. That at least didn’t disappoint. I think I’ll post a couple of the recipes and see if anyone has some suggestions; maybe it will help to talk it out.

For the moment I’m putting the idea of a smash off to the side and instead using crushed ice for a more solid drink recipe. One I’ve surprisingly never made before, simple in its ingredients yet satisfying in the end result. A mint julep.

I’m relying heavily on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe here. I find him an authority on this recipe, or at least his telling me he is makes me trust him. My only changes are that I switched out bourbon for rye whiskey. And also, I had mint simple syrup I just made so I used that instead of straight up regular simple syrup.

2 oz Rye Whiskey, such as FEW Spirits
1/4 oz mint simple syrup
12 mint leaves

One sprig of mint for garnish

In a wide double old fashioned glass muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup. Mix in the rye (and it’s totally ok to lick the spoon after you stir the rye. You should taste for sweetness and also, it’s delicious). Mound the crushed ice in the glass and add the mint sprig garnish.

All the ice here with the addition of the mint makes drinking spicy rye quite refreshing. I use only a quarter ounce of the simple syrup because I find more than that is just too sweet for my palate. Also, the small handful of mint is really the perfect amount. Much as it would be in cooking, too much actually creates a bitter aftertaste while too little would be lost against the rye.

Ice crusher= totally worth it.

Le Tiki-Vert/ What to do all that Basil Liquor

So this is my tarragon plant.
But I’m sure all the other herb plants think of it as a blood thirsty killer. That pot used to house a dill plant. But the Tarragon killed it dead. This plant is growing at a rate I’ve never seen any of my plants succeed at doing and now I’m stuck with a lot of an herb I only use a tiny bit of. My natural inclination was to see how I could fit it into a drink.

I’ve mentioned on here that I have a couple of bottles of Shrubs I’ve been experimenting with for work cocktails. This drink was born out of the remnants of a chicken salad. Sorta. I saw my husband mixing up tarragon and lemon juice into his classic sandwich mix and I thought, Hey- I should stick those herbs in the lemon shrub and see what happens. It ended up being a pretty nice combination and I’m glad I risked possible salmonella to try it (I may or may not have grabbed some leftover tarragon leaves for the first version of this that were mingling with leftover chicken on a cutting board. Don’t judge.).

One thing I learned about this is that you can go heavy with the tarragon. It works here and you want the taste. Too little leaves and the flavor is just not present enough and lacks that nice grassy-ness. The only problem I ran into with this drink was trying to name it. Is it really necessary to name your drink? I read some blogs where ‘names’ are just a modified list of ingredients. Other times people go in crazy directions and name their drink a long string of words that are really meaningless to the drink. I guess it doesn’t matter; I’m guilty of doing both. Except that this is on a short list for the work drink, so I did have to spend some time back and forth thinking of a name. Le Tiki-Vert just came out of the color and the Tiki-tasting quality of the drink. It could change, but for now I’m keeping it.

2 tbsp tarragon leaves
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1-1/2 oz white rum (Oronoco here)
1/2 oz lemon shrub (Tait Family Farms)
1 oz grapefruit juice

Muddle leaves and lime juice together in a mixing glass. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Cover with metal shaker and shake well to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Bits of tarragon will be floating about.

The drink has a mellow, bitter fruit flavor that borders on the tropical side. Herbaceous notes from the tarragon sit on the back of your tongue, becoming stronger as the drink sits.

I made 3 of these and had a pleasant afternoon.

***************

One other project that I didn’t feel warranted an entire blog post but worth mentioning was my discovery that you can make sorbet with liquor. Maybe all sorbet is made like this, who knows! I’ve only made this one recipe.

Anyways, last week my husband and I trekked out to a local farmer’s market (we recently, sadly, discontinued our CSA baskets for the main reason that we wanted to go and be active in our community and support local farms and have a bit more say in what we’re getting from where. So far we’re doing it every week. Or I am going during the week on my lunch.) and we picked up 3 pints of strawberries with me proclaiming all kinds of recipe ideas I was going to make with them. With only one drink under my belt and 2-3/4 pints left, I decided to look up a recipe where I could use a lot of them in one go. Browsing a favorite food blog, Sassy Radish (who, if I can wax poetic for a sec, is really a great, unpretentious, awesome food blog that anything I make from there always comes out perfect. And on the subject of food, I really should add a food blog section under the blogs I am reading. I’ll just make a mental note to do that), I came across this recipe for her Strawberry Basil Sorbet. Ah, also I forgot to mention I had harvested the last of my basil plant and needed to use that up STAT too. So I noticed that she had added a bit of vodka to her recipe in order to keep it smooth. Fireworks went off in my head when I remembered I didn’t have vodka, but I sure had some Basil Liquor made with Everclear in the freezer. I could totally sub that out and make this a super basil sorbet.

Anyways, so tweaking her recipe I used 2 tablespoons of the basil liquor and using the ice cream bowl attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, whipped that up and had some sorbet. The basil is definitely there, but not as strong as I was expecting. Since I haven’t tested it against a recipe NOT made with the basil liquor, I have no idea how pronounced it really should be. But there you go. Basil liquor for ice cream treats. You’re welcome.

One last note. Cumin in savory cocktails. I was out two weeks ago at a bar in downtown L.A. and had one and my mind has been blown. I need to get on this bandwagon. So, hopefully I can make something drinkable with cumin. If not, you’ll hear about it either way.

A Biting Strawberry

Warning. You’re going to see several, if not plenty, of drinks containing Shrubs in them coming up in the next few weeks. What’s a Shrub? A Shrub is a vinegar based fruit concentrate that dates back to Colonial Times. Sounds kind of gnarly huh? Vinegar? Gross. Well, actually, if combined with other appealing mixers and liquors it is quite pleasant. Really.

Why the onslaught of Shrub recipes? I recently became a slashie at work. Actually, I have no idea if I’m even using that correctly, but the long and short of it is that I was christened with the title of in-house Mixologist /slash/ creative director (slash a bunch of other titles. It’s a small company). I may have (completely) had something to do with this. But, we re-brought back in a line of Shrubs due to some popularity of them in cocktails and local bars and needed desperately to come up with some recipes so customers knew what to do with them. (That’s right, we had them for sale 4 years ago when no one gave a shit. Although, people are apparently still confused.)

So now I’m doing research, and taking notes, and really using this blog as a scratch pad for ideas. I think I’ve had some hits, and some misses. Here’s a hit. Mainly for people who either want a lighter cocktail, or just don’t want their cocktail tasting so much like alcohol (I need to hit a range of tastes here…).

3 strawberries quartered
1 lime wheel cut in half
1-1/2 oz white rum (I used Oronoco, a favorite for someone who is as confused about rum as someone reading smoke signals who doesn’t, understand.. smoke signals. You get my  analogy.)
3/4 oz Strawberry Shrub (Tait Farms)
1/2 oz Falernum

1 strawberry for garnish

Muddle the strawberries and lime wheels together in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add 4-5 ice cubes.  Pour in the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Pour un-strained into a rocks glass. Garnish with strawberry.

It’s a very summery drink. A bit on the sweet side, but not fake sugary sweetness. No sugar is needed as long as you are using strawberries that are in season and very ripe . There is a sharp note of ginger in the back, and the subtle touch of lime cuts the sweet strawberry taste back a notch. The rum takes a back seat here flavor-wise, which was why I noted that you can make and give this to someone who wants a cocktail but doesn’t like it to taste too strong.

Side note; this tastes amazing with milk chocolate FYI.

The Tres Palmas

Recently we spent a relaxing couple of days out in the wonderfully hot Palm Springs, it was for my birthday, but really, everyone needed some time to veg out. My husband is not a big fan of heat, sun, or swimming pools so he volunteered to be the cook and cocktail maker and give me a break (in the cocktail area, he’s still cook around the house). This meant he could stay indoors in air conditioning and not let on how much he was sampling the drinks; not like I can judge.

So there was lots of nachos and guacamole and the like, requiring lots of cilantro and hot pepper scraps to end up laying about doing nothing. In a moment of brilliance the husband tosses some of these scraps into a tumbler of gin and grapefruit juice topped with champagne and hands it to me upon request for a drink to have on my raft. Now, he tried to convince me that he’s had similar drinks before, but I hadn’t. So as far as I was concerned this was a groundbreaking flavor combination, possibly due to the extreme heat and sun exposure and the several morning cocktails we’d already had (read: vacation drinking).

Since we’ve been back I’ve been wanting to make this again, only I had some ideas to tweak it a bit. I finally got around to doing it and with a couple modifications, I was able to encapsulate exactly what I thought the drink should be.

First thing I did was try it with the champagne, and then again without. In the end the float of champagne wasn’t helping anyone so I tossed that out of the recipe. Second, I added some lime in for balance. Then, I decided it needed salt. I have no idea where this desire to constantly dump salt on everything is coming from. I seriously should just carry around a salt lick so I stop ruining perfectly good meals. However, I had some fancy smoked salt flakes from Maldon that did the trick.

Tres Palmas was the name of the house we stayed at (it belonged to Jack Lalanne at some point in his life); I thought it a fitting name for the drink.

2 oz Gin (Beefeater was used here)
3 oz Grapefruit Juice (we had fresh squeezed in a bottle when we were on the trip so I used the same here. Feel free to sub in your own freshly squeezed by hand)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
4 Jalapeno rings
1/2 lime wedge

Garnish:
slice of lime
Maldon smoked salt flakes

Start with the salt rim. Use your lime garnish to coat a quarter section of the glass. Roll the outside edge in the salt, pressing hard to crack the larger flakes. Set aside. In a mixing glass, combine all other ingredients and shake vigorously with your metal tumbler (so rare I use the Boston Shaker on here). Pour unstrained into the rocks glass. Finish with the lime wedge garnish.

The drink has a nice balance of citrus that compliments the gin. However the cilantro leaves add unexpected flavor, in a good way, and the heat of the jalapenos gives it great punch. I love the nice bits of cilantro and jalapeno floating around in the drink. They’re awesome little flavor bites. And the smoked salt is just another unexpected layer to the drink that imparts a subtle smokiness, that, in all honesty, reminds me of a lovely salsa.

Note: Jalapenos can vary greatly in hotness and you should really decide how spicy you want to make this. One recipe I made I left the seeds in, and though it was VERY spicy (the way I like it), it was obnoxious to drink having all these small seeds. I’d suggest that if you want heat, leave a few of the seeds in. If you want less heat, scrape the seeds out altogether. No use making something you can’t drink.

Salty Melon


Watermelon is a wonderful fruit if you’re the type of person who loves to break down fruits and veg. Pineapples also fall into this category. Thank god my local grocery store caters to us lazy kitchen skills people to give us these fruits already broken down and cut into chunks. Awesome, thanks Fresh & Easy.

It’s been hot in LA for the last week or so. Summer hot. The rising temps tricked my inner self into thinking it was already time for tropical fruit drinks on the patio and I found myself seeking out fresh pineapple chunks at the grocery store and for kicks threw in a pack of watermelon chunks too. I had started out thinking I was going to make some kind of tropical sangria. Until I remembered the whole pouring it into a pitcher (which I need to buy), and also hey, you can’t drink this for 24 hours. So that will have to wait for another time. But I had champagne and something sparkling seemed the right thing to make. And suddenly I wanted watermelons.

My mint plant has been out of control lately with this new plant food I’m giving it, so pretty much I’ve been throwing it into everything. No exception here.

In the first version of this drink, I found that I wanted…salt. So on the next round I added a bit more mint and a pinch of salt and OH YUM. Hello new summer drink. It was so tasty I made two more.

It’s a bit of work, but if you’re reading the this and enjoy making cocktails then this isn’t all that much. Note: with the desire to drink several of these I thought I’d try this as a blender drink (minus the champagne). Don’t do it. The beautiful pink color you get from the muddled melon disappears with the addition of the blended mint leaves. Also, it’s a lot more on the watery side when you do it this way. I would just advise making it by the glass.

1 oz Limoncello (homemade if you got it!)
2 sprigs of mint
3-4 chunks of watermelon about 1-1/2″ in size
pinch of salt
2-3 oz of champagne (decent quality. but since you’re mixing it, don’t use up the really good stuff)
1 sprig of mint for garnish

In a Mixing Glass, muddles the mint with the limoncello. Add the pinch of salt and muddle just enough to mix it in. Add the watermelons to the glass and muddle until smooth (this may take a few minutes). Strain through a medium-fine strainer into a rocks glass. You’ll need to use the back of a spoon to push the solids through to help get the remaining liquid in your glass. Add the champagne and garnish with a mint sprig.

This drink is a great balance of flavors with the addition of salt (just like in baking). The watermelon is present, but not overpowering to make it too sweet. That champagne cuts through to help aid in that as well. And in the background there is a nice herbal-citrus note that finishes well. I was really happy with this, and I hope you can enjoy it too.

UPDATE: instead of using the strainer to get the last bits in, you can mix and muddle your ingredients in a bar shaker and then flip it over into the glass and push solids through the top. Less dishes and mess.

Make It: Hibiscus Infused Tequila

I had scratched down an idea for a floral drink when the idea came up on Mixology Monday. And then I was out of town and forgot about it. I’m revisiting some ideas this week that I had left to the side and now have some time to actual try. For this recipe, keep in mind that Hibiscus is pretty astringent and this is not a liquor I’d knock back on its own. However, when mixed properly and sweetened, it’s delicious.

6 oz Tequila
1-1/2 Tablespoons Dried Hibiscus Flowers

Combine ingredients in a jar and seal. Refrigerate for 2 hours and then strain out the hibiscus and discard it. Or, if you’re like me and you forget it in the fridge for 24 hours, it’s also ok not ok. It gets too bitter. Stain it out immediately. Although it starts to move into the realm of bitter It’s so bitter, so taste it first after you’ve discarded the flowers.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Frozen Banana Daiquiri- Now for Boys!

I’m a little apprehensive about writing this post. On the one hand, I was asked to make this drink- so the parties involved know that I would then later write about it. But on the other hand, it’s a frozen daiquiri. It’s someone’s secret indulgent drink. Not mine mind you- but another person living in this house.

Bananas aren’t even a favorite of mine. Sure, I will saute some and put them on waffles- when asked for a breakfast with bananas. And yes, I will buy banana ice cream- but only if asked specifically to pick it up cause we never have desserts in the house with bananas. I like them as is- maybe in cereal. But not as a dessert.

This was made for someone who loves bananas. As a dessert.

I find frozen daiquiris sort of a joke, but I will make one if asked to, and I will try very hard to not taste like monkey poo.

For this recipe I used dark rum, I wanted some spice in there. Also, I ended up putting more banana liqueur in there than expected because I was asked to put more in. The person in question enjoyed the heightened banana flavor that it provided. The result- not as sweet as one would expect with a frozen beverage- and that’s a good thing! Also, for someone who doesn’t really enjoy banana-anything, this wasn’t half bad. If you did want to add more sweetness to this, I’d add in a 1/4 teaspoon of rich sugar syrup, or more to taste. Hell, if you like you’re teeth zinging with sweetness that’s your choice. Also, I think it could stand for even more spice, and maybe next time (I’m sure I’ll be asked to whip up some more of these before the summer is over, we have two bags of frozen bananas in the freezer) I’d add in some Miracle Mile Gingerbread Bitters in. Stayed tuned for the “light rum” version of this.

2 ounces dark rum
1-1/2 ounces banana liqueur
1/2 juice of a lime
1 banana
Ice (I used a heaping handful, again, as usual, add to your desired consistency)

In a blender combine all of the above ingredients. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled margarita/daiquiri glass. Yes, I have a pair of these.

Sleepy Pink Flamingo

Sometimes you need to make a drink quickly. You flip through a cocktail book until you land on something you’re pretty sure you have all the ingredients to. And then it turns out you don’t. A short while ago I was politely asked by my husband if he could pretty much have the upstairs to himself for a work phone conference. On a Sunday. Groan. I had been lingering over some books deciding on trying something out when I found myself in a panic and just grabbed the first cocktail book within reach. The Grog Log. Flipping through I stopped at the Cruzana. Perfect, there was just a hair shy of 2oz of grapefruit juice left from a defrosted bag from some Blanco Oro’s I’d squeezed awhile back. And surely there was a bit of Gold Rum left. I can see a bottle in the way back of the liquor cabinet.

For those of you who live with someone who puts empty bottles back instead of throwing them away… You can guess at my frustration level right about now. But since I was in hurry to grab ingredients and make a mad dash downstairs to mix this drink, I thought I could sub out some gin instead. I happen to like gin and grapefruit sometimes and thought maybe there’s a chance this would work.

2oz grapefruit juice (I used Blanco Oros which produce a bit more sweet juice than your run of the mill grapefruit)
3/4oz Fee Brother’s Maraschino Cherry Syrup (I’d do this to taste depending on your juice- this stuff is sweet)
2oz Broker’s Gin

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and build ingredients. Shake and pour all into a chilled collins glass. (the chilling may not be necessary but it’s a hot one out today and this just tastes better with a really cold glass)

Was this a success with the gin? Well, a couple factors that I would change next time. First, since the grapefruit juice is sweet already, I’d down that syrup to 1/2 an ounce. As is it’s just a tad too sweet for me at 3/4oz in this drink. Second, perhaps this is a drink that could stand a strong base spirit as the gold rum. Something to consider for next time when we do a rum stock up. But overall this worked for me. Mainly sweet with a hint of tart- the gin mellows way out into the background with only subtle notes.