May_18 Thirsty Thursday Cocktails

So here we are again… Gardening season, spring,  our bodies are starting to wake up and lean towards the warmth of the sun- FINALLY!   With that we start up our Thirsty Thursdays again.   May brings the beginning of many flavors.  This week we highlight Basil, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Blueberries and Lemon Verbena.

Basil Lemonade

1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c honey
1/2 c fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
4 c cold water
4 c ice
Basil sprigs (for garnish when serving – optional)

Mash honey and fresh basil together (using a fork or a mortar and pestle) until a paste is formed. In a large container or pitcher, combine the basil/honey mixture, lemon juice, and cold water. Cover and store in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight – note that the longer it sets, the more basil flavor there will be when served.
Strain the lemonade mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any solids (and the mushy basil).
To serve, put 1 cup of ice into each of 4 glasses. Pour lemonade over the ice (about 1 cup each) and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil, if desired.

Strawberry Rhubarb Margaritas

1 ounce Grand Marnier
3 ounces Tequila
1 tbsp lime juice (just a good squeeze from half lime)
1 tbsp lemon juice (just a good squeeze from half lemon)
2 ounces strawberry/rhubarb simple syrup

Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup:
-1 cup sugar
-2 cup water
-4 rhubarb stalks, chopped
-1 cup strawberries, sliced

1. In a pan, combine the water and the sugar and turn the heat onto medium.
2. Add the Rhubarb and strawberries and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Put through a fine strainer and dispose of the pulp. The syrup will be bright pink-red. Can refrigerate for up to a week.
4. In a large pitcher or cocktail shaker, combine the simple syrup, lemon/lime juice and liquors. Shake together well.
5. Fill each glass with ice cubes and divide the drink among the glasses

Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup

2c Water
1c Sugar
2 large lemons, zest of
10 -12 lemon verbena leaves, slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
lemon verbena leaf, to garnish

Make the syrup by heating together the water, lemon zest and the sugar. Bring to a boil, take off the heat and allow to infuse until cold. Bring back to a boil and immediately add the lemon verbena leaves. Take off the heat and allow to infuse until cold.
Strain the syrup in to a bottle or jar in the fridge until needed. Discard the lemon verbena leaves.
To make Lemonade: Pour some syrup into a glass and add water to taste. Serve with ice and garnish with a lemon verbena leaf and a lemon slice.
Strawberry Shrub & Black Pepper Cocktail

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
Ice, for serving
2 ounces vodka, or to taste
Club soda, for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

1. Place peppercorns on a cutting board. Using bottom of a pan, gently smash peppercorns, breaking some open to release flavor. Transfer peppercorns to a double-lined piece of cheesecloth and tie with a piece of twine. Set aside.
2. Place strawberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Add bundle of peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove and discard peppercorn bundle. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, scraping off any syrup from bottom of strainer. Stir vinegar into syrup. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Store shrub, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
3. To make a cocktail, place 1 large ice cube in a short glass. Add 2 ounces strawberry shrub, vodka, and top with club soda. Garnish with black pepper and serve.

From the author: The amount of vinegar used in the shrub depends on how sweet and fresh your strawberries are. Start with 1/2 cup as noted, but taste the finished shrub after adding it and adjust as needed, adding another 2-4 tablespoons until mixture is a nice balance of tangy and sweet. Crushing the peppercorns slightly allows more of their flavor to release while simmering.

Mint White Wine Sangria

1 bottle white wine (Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
8-10 mint leaves
1 c sugar
2 c water

Prepare simple syrup by mixing on stovetop using a 2:1 sugar-water ratio, let come to a boil to dissolve sugar, let cool and reserve in fridge for later use.
Once simple syrup is ready, add 1 Tablespoon to each wine glass. Then add mint leaves and stir/lightly muddle. Next add several slices each of lemon and lime.
Top off with wine and let set for a few minutes so the flavors can meld together. Top off with more wine and citrus as needed.
To create a pitcher, combine all ingredients and let sit for a couple hours before serving.