Lemon basil gimlets: the only summer cocktail you’ll ever need.
To all you thirsty readers, searching for the perfect drink to slake your summertime thirst, your quest is over. This lemon basil gimlet is the recipe you’ve been looking for. Don’t believe us? We dare you to mix up a batch, and step outside on a hot day, and not declare this drink perfect and refreshing.
Ok, perhaps that’s a little too cocky, but we love this drink so much that we REALLY want everyone to try it. So as a personal favor to us, please stop what you’re doing and go get some lemons and basil.
You can tell your boss we excused you.
The origin of this drink traces back to 2005. Liz and I were dating at the time, and I had flown up to Portland to visit her over the summer. The last night I was there, we went out to dinner at Pok Pok. By now, Pok Pok has established a small empire of restaurants and bars spanning the country, but back then, it was just one of Liz’s favorite Thai restaurants. This may be the only occasion that we tried a place before it hit the big time (adjusts hipster glasses and suspenders). Regardless, it was a great dinner, and the first time I had seen lemon and basil combined in a drink. Sadly, we weren’t old enough to order cocktails, but the basil lemonade they offered made a huge impression on me. The flavors were just perfect, and it was extremely refreshing. And apparently I couldn’t shut up about, because when my mom spotted a recipe for lemon-basil syrup two years later, she remembered me talking about the drink, and keyed me in.
Lemon basil gimlets also hold a special place in our hearts for another reason…
It was the signature drink at our wedding. We got married at a gorgeous vineyard in the Willamette Valley (everyone remember your final destination from Oregon Trail?), and while the wine was certainly flowing (and excellent), we wanted to offer our guests a nice cool beverage on that Saturday afternoon. It was quite a hit, with the supply running out in the first 30 minutes. In fact, Liz’s uncle spent a fair amount of time trying to bribe the servers into going to the grocery store, buying more basil, making more syrup, and serving more drinks.
Reports that Liz and I were responsible for the majority of the consumption have NEVER been substantiated.
Although this gimlet recipe is easy to make, it requires some prep work with the syrup.
Basically, you steep a whole lot of basil in a simple syrup, then mix the syrup with equal parts lemon juice and gin. All the ingredients are proportional, so the recipe scales well. We’re partial to scaling up, but we also understand that not everyone has a bushel of basil available.
For this recipe, we really recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice. Honestly, we’re not trying to be snobs, it just tastes better. And the final product is worth the plethora of previously undiscovered nicks and cuts on your hand that become instantly apparent whenever you’re dealing with lemon juice. If you want to speed things up a bit, this electric juicer is a good bet. (<- Amazon affiliate link.)
We sincerely hope that you will give this drink a shot, and that it finds its way onto your summer (or year round) cocktail short list.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet.
- 4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs (top 4 inches; from a ½-pound bunch)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 9 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest
- 2 oz Lemon Basil Syrup
- 2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 2 oz gin
- In a medium saucepan, stir the sugar and water together until the sugar begins to disolve.
- Add the basil and lemon zest, and apply medium high heat until the mixture boils and the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour.
- After the syrup has cooled, move to the refrigerator and set sit for another hour.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the syrup into an airtight container, pressing on the solids with a flexible spatula to get the maximum volume.
- Use immediately, or keep in the fridge in the airtight container for up to a week. The recipe makes enough syrup for a good number of cocktails.
- For one drink, combine all the cocktail ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake vigorously to combine. (You can also combine the ingredients in advance, without ice, and keep everything cold in the fridge prior to serving).
- Pour over ice, and garnish with a lemon wheel and fresh basil.
- Scale up to make additional drinks - you'll have plenty of syrup from the batch you just made.
- Drink often.
The syrup is a 2:2:1 ratio of Basil:Water:Sugar, so you can easily scale based on your limiting ingredient. The cocktail is likewise an easy 1:1:1 ratio.
Need some more summer sips? This grapefruit margarita is our second-favorite warm weather drink…after the lemon basil gimlet.