It’s Friday. The school year that we all begged for is here. We’ve made it through the first week of alarm clocks and homework. Now who needs a drink? (hahaha trick question we all do!)
This week’s cocktail is brought to you by my end of summer squirrel like tendencies to use up and try to capture and store as much summer goodness as possible before the days get shorter and the nights get colder. My basil plant, after a ROUGH start this spring has matured into quite the specimen. In order to fully enjoy this moment of accidental green thumb skills, I have started putting basil in everything. Basic pesto is an obvious choice (and uses a ton), and for the fresh leaves themselves, I’ve been incorporating them in salads, pasta, desserts, and now even vodka.
I won’t lie, vodka is one of the last spirits I go to when making a cocktail. I don’t like the “flavorlessness” of it, and I would much prefer a floral earthy gin if we are talking clear liquors. However, one thing vodka IS good for…is infusions. It’s inherent lack of flavor makes it the perfect vessel to shove flavor into whether it wanted it or not. Back in college I remember people just dumping a king size packet of skittles into a bottle of Smirnoff on a Monday and waiting until the weekend (who am I kidding, it was the next day) to take candy flavored shots before heading out. Such budding mixologists we were back in 2004….
Anyway so that brings me to my basil plant, and a handle of vodka that needed some flavor. I thought I would experiment with infusing some of my favorite summertime herb into a small amount of vodka and seeing where it led me. Well, as it turns out it led me right down a path of tasty. Within 3 days, the vodka took on the earthy basil notes and at first– the vibrant green hue (after removing the leaves, it oxidized and turned more brown, but still tastes great!) and taking a small sip I was pleasantly surprised.
I had (have!) all kinds of ideas for this basil tonic, but the first one I jumped at was fruity. It’s blackberry season and giant berries as big as ping pong balls are rolling into farmers markets, and onto my Instagram feed, but at the time I was contemplating this cocktail I didn’t have any on hand. Instead I remembered an old cocktail recipe I had read once which just used straight up JAM in the cocktail shaker for fruit flavor.
It’s kind of ingenious really. No need for simple syrup, as there is plenty of sugar to go around, and the basil in the vodka tempered the sweetness of the drink. I topped it off with a splash of tart Sanpellegrino sparkling Limonata for some bubbles and acid and I’ll be damned if this wasn’t a delightful pantry (ish) dive of a cocktail.
You could easily sub any berry jam into this and I think it would be delicious. I have some tart cherry jam I made earlier this summer that I think would be great, and peach jam would probably be amazing too. I might just start shaking jam into all my drinks!
Basil Vodka and Blackberry Fizz
2 oz basil vodka (recipe below)
2 tbsp blackberry jam (seedless)
1 tbsp water
Sanpellegrino sparkling Limonata
Basil leaves, for garnish
For the basil vodka: Measure out a small amount (I did 12 oz) of vodka into a jar/container (a Ball or Weck jar works perfectly). Add one bunch of fresh basil (about 2 cups, packed) to the jar making sure all the leaves are below the surface. Cover tightly and let sit at room temperature for 3 days, giving it a little shake and even a test taste each day. At 3 days, strain through coffee filter and into fresh jar. Use in this recipe!
For the cocktail: Combine ice, vodka, jam, and water into cocktail shaker. Shake it like you mean it, about 20-30 seconds. Strain into clear-ice filled cup, top with Sanpellegrino and garnish with basil leaves*. Cheers!
*this is a recipe in which I would definitely use the garnish. If you use a straw (like I did) you’ll naturally sniff while you suck down the drink (weird…) and you get a nice nose-full of basil while your mouth is doing a happy dance. Totally worth it, totally enhances the drink!