Late spring and summer means that fresh herbs are creeping back into our daily cocktails. When picking herbs for your cocktail of choice, don’t limit yourself to the standards, however. Sure, you can pick up some sweet basil and make one damn fine basil-gin concoction. In fact, the gin-bail smash using “standard” gin is STILL this website’s number one, most read, and most shared post we’ve ever done?
And it uses any random-ass basil you can pick up at your supermarket. And while we here at Cocktails, 365 do our best to avoid being uptight dicks about our cocktails, there really is a whole wide world of herb variations out there just begging for you to kill them, muddle them, and ultimately consume their lifeless corpses in drink form.
Truth be told, we tear through so much basil in our household that it’s not just a matter of flavor, but a matter of necessity that we stock several versions of basil in our annual herb garden. Our favorite local greenhouse only stocks so much sweet basil before we buy them out of house and home. That means things like Genovese basil, spicy basil, Thais basil, and purple ruffle basil all eventually end up in our circulation either via cocktails or cooking.
One our newest ones, and one I haven’t had much time to play around with but have fallen in love with, is the cinnamon basil – also known as Mexican spice basil.
Cinnamon basil has a spicier, brighter aroma and flavor than your “standard” basil. (Yeah, we’re overusing the quotation marks.) It actually contains methyl cinnamate, the same chemical that gives cinnamon its distinct flavor. It has sharper, more blade-like leaves than sweet basil, and can easily be found at any reputable greenhouse or nursery.
I wanted to use this spicier version of basil, as we’re pairing it with one of Skyy Vodka’s newer offerings – the Texas Grapefruit flavored vodka. As for the name, it simply came from our front porch being overrun by countless herbs, ready for our greedy consumption.
- 3 oz Skyy Texas Grapefruit Vodka (or grapefruit vodka of your choice, like Deep Eddy Grapefruit)
- .25 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- 3 dashes orange bitters (we like Scrappy’s)
- 5 to 7 cinnamon basil leaves (plus a sprig for garnish)
- Ginger ale
Place your cinnamon basil leaves in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add the bitters and St. Germain and then gently muddle. You just want to bruise the basil to release the aromatics, not maul it into shreds. Add an ice ball or large single ice cube. Top with the vodka and ginger ale then gently stir. Garnish with a basil sprig and serve.
The St. Germain, as it often does, plays backup to the well-balanced Skyy vodka. The basil will rise to greet you, and the bitters gives you just a little hint of aromatic depth to keep the cocktail constrained from the saccharine.