Lemonade…with a Twist

June 28, 2011

by Ann Waterman

When I think of basil, it’s usually in the context of savory dishes — caprese salad, pesto, spaghetti sauce — but did you know that basil is part of the mint family and can be used in place of mint in a slew of things, opening up a whole new world of flavors? Mint and lemon are a classic flavor pairing, but replace mint with basil, add some sugar and water, and you’ve got yourself some basil lemonade! Trust me, this stuff is good. The basil lends a pleasant herbaceous undertone that gives a unique twist to this summertime favorite. Let me show you how to make it.

First, you’ll need to make a basil lemon syrup (adapted from Gourmet, July 2007 via Epicurious.com)  — the base upon which the lemonade is made (and another fun drink that I’ll tell you about in a bit).  It’s basically a simple syrup infused with basil. You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest from 2 lemons

Put all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat mixture while stirring until all the sugar has dissolved (you shouldn’t feel any sugar at the bottom of the pan with the spoon). Remove the syrup from heat, cover, and let it sit for one hour.

Strain mixture, pressing on solids with a spoon to extract all that basil-lemony goodness. Discard solids and chill syrup in fridge. Syrup will keep up to 5 days if you keep it chilled in an airtight container. Better yet, I like to freeze some and have a little taste of summer during those dreary winter days. This recipe uses a lot of basil, so it’s perfect if you have a bunch on hand and aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Now that you’ve got basil lemon syrup, you can make some basil lemonade. All you need is:

  • 2 cups basil lemon syrup
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 cup ice cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice (about 4-6 lemons, depending on their size)

Mix the basil lemon syrup, cold water, and lemon juice in a pretty pitcher. Add ice cubes. Pour in glass, insert straw, sip and enjoy! And in case you’re wondering, you can substitute bottled lemon juice in place of fresh — I promise I won’t tell anyone. It won’t taste quite as good, but it’ll be refreshing and tasty nonetheless.

This lemonade also make a great hostess gift or take-along to a summer party. Put lemonade — minus the ice — in a stoppered bottle for a charming presentation.

Okay, as promised, here’s the other beverage you can make with the basil lemon syrup — basil vodka gimlets. These are wonderful to sip on a warm summer evening after a day in the sun.  A wrap-around porch and serenading cicadas are optional, but a nice touch. These are so simple to make once you have the syrup. You’ll need:

  • 1 cup basil lemon syrup
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Mix ingredients in pitcher. Remember these are not intended to quench your thirst. Sip slowly!

What’s your beverage of choice during these hot summer months? Anything fun or special to share?

P.S. To add to Zoe’s post yesterday, how about 101 ideas for easy summer meals?

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