kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


Basil beyond Pesto

I'm a basil fanatic, and I have 3 kinds growing in my garden this year: sweet basil (the tradition Italian variety), Cuban basil and Thai basil. When frost is forecasted, I'll cut it all and dry it to use in cooking this winter. Although it's not quite as tasty as fresh, it's much better than the commercially dried stuff...

Since I've done a few articles recently about infusing simple syrups with fresh herbs, I thought I would try my hand at it. I took a half cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, and simmered until the sugar dissolved (FYI--traditional simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio, but several mixologists have recommended to halve the amount of sugar when infusing so the herb flavor--not the sweetness--remains front and center.)

I added a bunch of basil leaves, and let the mixture cool. I then put it in a container and steeped it overnight in the fridge. The result was a fragrant, enticingly fresh syrup. I did a little research online, and mixed up a modified Basil Gimlet recipe I found:

Basil Gimlet
Makes 1 drink

2.5 oz. vodka
1 oz. basil simple syrup (see recipe above)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake until chilled, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with several fresh basil leaves. was refreshingly delicious. Next up, I'll try a similar recipe with lemon verbena/lavender syrup I whipped up the same day. Stay tuned...