The bounty of a friend’s garden and the lingering summer heat inspired me last week to experiment with a variety of cocktails featuring herbs and fruit.
On a recent trip to London, I was introduced to Pimm’s Cup, a staple at Wimbledon. If you’ve never had one, it’s wonderfully refreshing, with Pimm’s No. 1 (a low-alcohol gin-based liquor), lemonade or lemon soda, and, typically, strawberries, cucumber, orange and mint.
It was so good that I bought two bottles at the duty free shop, but it’s an inexpensive spirit flavored with fruit and spices that’s available at liquor stores here for around $15. It’s a low-alcohol spirit
I’ve been playing with variations ever since, and I loved one made with Pimm’s Cup and raspberries and without the cucumber.
I based another recipe on a favorite cocktail from Houlihan’s, the Strawberry Basil Lemonade. The basil balances the sweetness of the strawberries and contributes its interesting herbal flavors.
Mint and basil go well in almost any fruity cocktail, but don’t stop there. Herbs add a fresh, aromatic note to drinks, and there’s plenty of room to experiment. Try a single stem of lavender in a glass of Champagne, as Martha Stewart recommended on her site. Add some cilantro to a Bloody Mary. Or do what Truman Capote did and skewer your olives with rosemary for an herbal martini.
But for now, here are my favorite concoctions for the end of summer.
Raspberry Pimm’s Cup
3-4 fresh raspberries
Several leaves mint, torn or roughly chopped
1 part Pimm’s No. 1
1 part lemonade
Place orange slice, raspberries and mint in a glass. Muddle with a cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon. Add Pimm’s and lemonade. Add ice, then splash of club soda. Stir and serve.
Strawberry Basil Lemonade
3 fresh strawberries, quartered
3-4 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 parts lemonade
1 part gin (optional)
Place strawberries, basil and sugar in glass. Muddle and allow to macerate for a minute or two. Pour in lemonade. Add ice, then splash of club soda. Stir and serve.