For this edition of Cookin’ Sisters (that’s not what it’s called) we thought nothing would be more fitting for the middle of summer and the sometimes oppressive heat than some delicious cocktails. I encouraged Addie to come up with some drinks that were good and boozy but also a little innovative. AND! I wanted to use local spirits because there are *so many* in Minnesota. By the way, we (me, Addie and Alan) all tested these out and can vouch for their fortitude. We have two for July and we’ll have two more in August!
Chamomile Basil Lemonade
I wanted to make a fresh herb cocktail that was a little less obvious than some cocktails can be, but one where I knew the flavor combinations would be spot on. I have fresh chamomile growing in my garden and I had the idea to use chamomile simple syrup to elevate a simple lemonade cocktail to be a bit more floral and fresh. It pairs really well with the basil, which is subtle enough because you’re only using it to shake the drink and then garnish. This is a drink that I originally wanted to make without the alcohol, but the addition of vodka was a no-brainer. Feel free to omit the booze for an n/a summer drink you can enjoy anytime.
1 1/2 ounces chamomile simple syrup
1 ounce vodka
Juice of one lemon
5 fresh basil leaves (3 for muddling, 2 for garnish)
Lemon wedge (for garnish)
For the simple syrup: Heat equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Add your fresh chamomile (dried if you don’t have fresh, preferably loose-leaf). For this recipe I used 1/2 a cup each of water and sugar to about 1/4 cup of the chamomile flowers. Steep for 15 minutes and strain. Let cool.
Using a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 to 4 basil leaves in the bottom of the cup. Add simple syrup, vodka, lemon juice, and ice cubes. Cover and shake for about 15 seconds. Pour into a lowball glass filled with a few ice cubes. Fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Finely chiffonade the remaining basil for garnish.
I have a soft spot in my heart for rum. I went to college in small town Wisconsin, so I cut my teeth on cheap rum and cokes. While white rum doesn’t quite have the same warmth as a darker, spiced rum, it’s perfect for fresh garden cocktails. Upping the ante by adding blueberries to the ubiquitous mint mojito makes it feel even more summery and adds a little more depth (Ed. note: July is also National Blueberry Month!). If you grow your own mint, you’ll have it coming out your ears by the time July rolls around when the fresh local blueberries start arriving. Which will be the perfect time to make this drink over and over.
1/4 cup blueberries (half for muddling, half for slicing)
1 ounce white rum
1 small bunch mint (about 10 leaves or so)
1 teaspoon white sugar (more if you prefer it sweeter)
Juice from one lime
In the bottom of a lowball glass, muddle 6 or 7 mint leaves with the sugar and lime juice. Add half of the blueberries and mash into the mint with your muddler. Add the rum, sparkling water, the other half of the blueberries sliced in half, and the rest of the mint leaves. If you prefer to mix separately and strain before adding the soda and garnishes, it will be much cleaner, but I prefer the look and taste of it without straining. That being said, you may wish to use a cocktail straw in that case.