Basil – Not Just For Cooking Anymore

Mixology Monday is here again and this time the topic focuses on something warmer than the past winter-y instalments. The weather might still be cold, but I will gladly take this chance to bring you one of my favorite cocktails. A divine combination of gin and basil.

This month's topic is brought to us by Joel from Southern Ash and is called Spring Break. The topic is best explained by its creator.

What sort of drinks do you enjoy when you start to break out of your winter shell? Do you crave a return to gin and tonics? Is there a drink that calls to you as the weather warms and the sun creeps through the sky longer and longer? Perhaps there is a drink that you fondly recall from your days of being a callow youth on Spring Break that led you down this primrose cocktail path? Do you turn to a specific cocktail throughout this blustery winter to keep your dreams of spring alive? – Southern Ash

After reading the challenge, one cocktail immediately came to my mind. A cocktail utilizing fresh herbs in such a way that the cold weather melts away and is replaced by instant sunshine. The Gin Basil Smash.

A Modern Classic

The cocktail was created in 2008 by two different bartenders at around the same time[1], the more popular one being Jörg Meyer of Le Lion in Hamburg. The other bartender was Hariolf Sproll of the Blaupause in Ulm, which is where I often drank one of these fine cocktails. As far as I can tell both prepare their cocktails a bit different, but the results are quite delicious either way.

Gin Basil Smash

After over 7 years this cocktail has become a modern classic (according to some sources) and is in my opinion a perfect drink for spring and summer.

Coincidentally this drink also reminds me of my student years which links it to the whole Spring Break part of the challenge. We might not have something like that here in Germany, but it just meant we had to celebrate the whole year whenever we could. Alcohol was obviously involved.

Once Upon A Time

When I was still a student at the university in Ulm, I was already mixing cocktails at home, trying to increase my bar stock whenever I could. I was also the only one of my friends capable of producing decent cocktails. Which meant it was my job to introduce delicious cocktails to my friends without spending lots of money at a bar.

When I stumbled upon the recipe for the Gin Basil Smash, the idea of mixing an herb usually used for cooking with gin sounded weird. However, I was intrigued. And immediately after tasting it I had a new favorite cocktail.

I made one big mistake though. I introduced my friends to the Gin Basil Smash and, sure enough, they loved it. This meant I had to make quite a few of these, which can be quite the pain, since you go through a lot of basil in no time and always have to clean your shaker and strainers.

From that moment on this cocktail became the one I usually order at a bar in spring, summer and other seasons. The freshness of accompanies warm and gentle weather perfectly. And being one of the cocktails of my student years, it sometimes brings back fond memories of crazy parties and the stupid things we did.

![Gin Basil Smash](/content/images/2016/02/ginbasilsmash.jpg)
####Gin Basil Smash * 60ml Gin * 20ml Lemon Juice * 15ml Simple Syrup * 12 Basil Leaves

Place the basil leaves in the base of the shaker, then add the gin, lemon juice and syrup. Muddle the leaves gently and optionally leave to infuse for a minute or two. Add ice and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Fine strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with additional basil leaves.

It's basically the Gin Sour version of a Whiskey Smash with basil. The cocktail is very light and the basil taste is very subtle if you don't go overboard with the muddling. Whenever you make one it's important to choose the right gin. I usually use something floral or citrus-y to go with the basil. Nothing that tastes too strong of juniper.

My favorite gin is G'Vine Nouaison, which provides a wonderful base for this cocktail. This time I used Jinzu which brings along subtle flavors of yuzu and sake. And if I could ever get a yuzu around here, I would try substituting it for the lemon. If you prefer a less fancy gin, then using the widely available Hendrick's Gin also works really well.

To get a nice color, without muddling too forcefully, I suggest, heeding Jörg Meyer's advice and adding the stems alongside the basil leaves. It gives the drink a subtle green hue without affecting the flavor. A deeper green like pictured above usually means letting the flavors infuse a bit more and giving the cocktail a bolder basil flavor. Which is what I like.

Final Thoughts

I really hope you try a Gin Basil Smash, if you haven't already. It's a really great drink with a captivating color and the ingredients are very easy to procure. Start spring early with this cocktail and convince everybody that you're drinking something healthy. Because it's green, you know.

Well, that's it for this week, I hope you found it interesting. If you have any comments you can leave them below. Next week, my plan is to write about the lost art of serving an apéritif. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe if you like to get informed about new posts or whatever is happening.

Title image via pixabay.

  1. Who came up with the brilliant Gin Basil Smash? – (Attention: Paywall) ↩︎

Pete Barmeister

Pete is a German hobby mixologist always trying to find new ways to mess around with alcohol. When not researching articles he's always on the lookout for new things to drink.