As a child I grew up on whiskey sours. Well, okay, not really, but they were always around at my grandparents' house for the grown-ups on Sunday afternoons. The minute we would walk into my grandparents' home, my grandfather, "Pops," would have a drink ready for my father and anyone else who was not the designated driver for the night. There would even be batches chilling on the porch in the winter if the fridge was too full. Don't get me wrong, I tried little sips here and there but thought it was pretty gross at the time. I would make my own "Shirley Temple" with ginger ale and cherry juice and go into the TV room and pretend to watch PBS, while I really watched MTV. My grandfather made his drink with sweet and low and a few other mystery ingredients... it was quite an art. Branden and I served them at our wedding this past summer in two containers: one labeled "whiskey sours" and the other labeled "swiskey wours." I bet you can guess which one would knock your socks off. I think Pops would have been proud.
A few months ago, Kris and I decided it would be fun to try a seasonal cocktail post using fruits and vegetables from our CSAs. In this past week's share we received a bunch of cucumbers and sprigs of basil, among many other delicious veggies. Recently I came across Lillet one night at a bar in our neighborhood called Five Leaves. It was a lovely digestif. I shared my newfound love of Lillet with my family recently when they came to visit NYC and it was the perfect aperitif after a long day of sightseeing and walking around the city.
So, for this post I decided to make a Lillet-inspired cocktail with some summertime ingredients. I set the basil, cucumber, gin, Lillet, ice cube tray, etc. neatly out on the counter. And then I realized I did not own a cocktail shaker. Hmm... I thought about shaking a glass and covering it with my hand or putting it in the French press and swishing it around... then I found it. My Klean Kanteen water bottle. Hey, it wasn't perfect, but it did the trick. The basil and cucumber really add a little "je ne sais pas." (Okay, I had to add a little bit of French in there somewhere.) Enjoy!
(Above photos l to r: Makeshift cocktail shaker; One lillet-basil cocktail)
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com
1 cup ice, plus more for serving
1/2 cup Lillet Blanc
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) gin
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
Splash of tonic water
1 cucumber spear, for garnish
1 cinnamon stick, for garnish
Put ice, Lillet, gin, orange juice, and basil in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Fill a glass with ice and strain mixture into glass. Add tonic water. Garnish with cucumber spear, cinnamon stick, and basil sprigs.
(Above photo: Fresh basil sprigs and Lillet Blanc)
Summertime in Beacon is magical.
I've heard my fair share of cricket songs, being from the South and all, but in Beacon they seem to chirp and hum the happiest. A full July moon rising over Mt. Beacon is a sight like no other, and during storms on hot nights the thunder rolls down the mountain and seeps into our bones.
Amidst that abundance of seasonal inspiration, our local farms and home gardens are also teeming with summertime offerings. Like bright, pink watermelon. And aromatic (and quintessentially summery) basil. And cool, crisp cucumbers.
Luckily, I had all of these treats on-hand when embarking on this little cocktail experiment. Our CSA, Common Ground Farm, provided the gorgeous watermelon and sunny lemon cucumbers. Some sweet neighbors (Esther and Gordon) provided the fresh basil (as ours was devoured by a mysterious pest).
The cocktail, which I have very affectionately named, is a breeze to make, as it requires no fancy cocktail-making equipment. It's bright and fresh, not unlike Beacon in summer.
(Above photos l to r: Watermelon from Common Ground Farm; Gin, infusing)
the beacon summer
Infused gin (see recipe below)
Handful of fresh watermelon dices, lemon cucumber slices, and basil leaves
Tonic (look for a brand made without high fructose corn syrup, like Q Tonic)
Honey, agave nectar, or simple syrup (optional)
Strain infused gin into 2 cold glasses, pressing out every last bit of juice from the soaked fruit and leaves. Add a bit of fresh (not gin-soaked) watermelon, lemon cucumber slices, and basil leaves, and muddle. Add tonic and ice. Add optional sweetener to taste. Stir, garnish with a cucumber slice, and enjoy!
1/4 cup fresh watermelon, diced
1/4 cup fresh lemon cucumber slices (any variety of cucumber will do)
6-8 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup gin (I used the already-summery Hendrick's because it's infused with cucumber and rose petals)
Muddle the first three ingredients in a small bowl, add gin, and stir. Cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for as long as possible (the longer it sits, the more flavorful the gin will be).
(Above photo: Cocktails, ready to sip)