A dear friend, her talented hand surgeon husband, and three darling girls invited us to visit their newly renovated home in Pasadena, California three summers ago. We were greeted with sweet hugs, a visually stunning courtyard with fuchsia blooming bougainvillea tumbling down the Mediterranean Spanish colonial style stucco walls, and this refreshing citrus and herb cocktail. So fragrant and wonderful, it is served on Atlantic shores three thousand miles away when drinking is much more appealing than eating on our most hot and humid New England summer days.

Kitchen Notes
Whether in a pot or the garden, indoors or out, basil grows just about anywhere in the summertime. Plant a variety of Thai basil, lemon basil, sweet basil, and Christmas basil to use in culinary experiments. This recipe calls for lemon basil but sweet basil works fine. Any brand of vodka may be substituted, but the smooth lack of heat on the palate makes the French Grey Goose vodka particularly appealing on a hot day. The basil syrup makes five cups.

Sparkling Basil Lemon Gimlet


1. Put the basil, water, sugar, and lemon strips in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand at least one hour until it cools to room temperature.

3. Transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold.

4. Strain syrup and discard the basil and lemon zest strips. Refrigerate until ready for use (may be kept chilled for five days).

5. Stir 1 cup of the basil syrup, the vodka, and the lemon juice together. Add the ice, shake, and strain into chilled glasses.

6. Top with a splash of sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of basil and a slice of lemon.



  • 4 cups lemon basil leaves with stems

  • 4 cups cold water

  • 2 cups castor sugar

  • 10  (3" x 1") lemon zest strips (use a vegetable peeler)

  • 3/4 cup Grey Goose vodka

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1 cup ice cubes

  • Sparkling water

  • Lemon slices & basil leaves, garnish