Mixologist’s Recipe: Basil Lemonade

The irrepressible sun of Athas bore down heavily on Thak as he and his companion Tenghar wove through the Elven market. As they neared the outskirts of the bazaar and he was finally able to focus on something other than dodging all manner of creature, he turned and noticed barely any sweat pouring down the face of his friend. He nudged the monk in the ribs. “How…how is it that you escape the gaze of the dragon’s eye, ever burning above us?”

The monk smiled – at least to the extent that monks do- and tossed Thak his water-skin. “Drink, it will invigorate you against desert life”.

Thak threw his head back and drenched himself in the golden liquid. Expecting a nectar he was surprised by the tang and bite of the citrus upon his lips; though no sooner had the sensation appeared ,it was gone, replaced by a soothing menthol from the herbs steeped within. As Tenghar took back the water skin and they walked on toward the Thespian Hall he took a swig of his own. “Remember this friend, not all the treasures of the apocalypse are buried ‘neath the sand, or found in metal.”

Lemonade and it’s variations are wonderful drinks, the best of these being the famous “Arnold Palmer” half iced tea/ half lemonade beverage. As the dog days of August approach I find myself more and more in need of liquid replenishment. The impetus came in the form of my mother’s garden where the basil is spreading like wildfire – certainly faster than we can use it for pesto and other dishes. I’ve never been one to see excess basil as a “problem” and had the idea of a basil infused lemonade ruminating about my mind for awhile. Time to break out the wooden juicer!

Getting the flavor of basil into the drink was a bit of a challenge, and after testing several methods I found, the best delivery system is a simple syrup. The drink needs a sweetening agent as it is, and muddling the basil alone wasn’t giving me enough flavor. Simple syrups are made by dissolving equal parts of sugar into water, applying heat and allowing the mixture to reduce. For this recipe the mixture should reduce by almost half. It should not be thin and syrupy, but it should be more viscous than most liquids.

I prefer my lemonade tart, so if yours is a sweeter tooth, be sure to add more syrup as needed. Additionally, the sparkling lemonade can be substituted for more fresh lemon juice (though again the ratio of syrup might need adjusting too) however I found it gives extra bite while providing some bubbles, though certainly not enough that I would call it carbonated. Plus, more lemon juice means more work juicing, and while having a lightsaber helps, for those of us without electric juicers, the wrist pain can soon outweigh the benefits.

The exact proportions of this beverage may vary depending on how much you plan on making. It is versatile enough that it can be made for 2 people or for a big party. As such the ingredients are listed as proportions on the bottom for easy scaling. As for variations with this drink, alcohol is just begging to be included here somewhere, whether in the form of the traditional vodka gimlet, or maybe even a twist on the classic mint julep. Basil lemonade juleps anyone?

Basil Lemonade
Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup of sparking lemonade
1/3 cup simple syrup
10 fresh basil leaves

What do the colors mean?

Simple Syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

5 leaves of basil

Syrup Directions:

Heat the water over medium heat. Add in leaves of basil, shredding them with your fingers. Steep the basil in the water, slowly raising the temperature toward boiling.

As it approaches boiling, pour in the sugar and stir it in. Allow it to come to a soft boil then lower the heat slightly and let it reduce for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.

Once the water begins to take on a color (it will begin to resemble pickle juice) and the leaves are whilted and lose their color, take them out and dispose of them.

Lemonade Directions:

In a large bottle or pitcher place the remaining leaves of basil. Again, shred or tear them a bit to help release flavors.

Juice and strain the lemons to remove excess pulp and seeds. Depending on the size of your lemons it may take between 10-20 to reach one cup (eek!). Just think of it as another replacement for all those times you tell yourself you’ll go to the gym. Add in the lemon juice and water, then pour in the simple syrup and stir it well. Finally add in the sparkling lemonade (if desired) and mix again.

Chill at least 1 hour allowing the basil to infuse into the lemonade. Serve cold, on the rocks if desired.

Ingredients (for scaling)

1 part water
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part sparkling lemonade
1/3 part basil simple syrup
3+ leaves of basil