Here’s a cocktail that straddles two seasons extremely well: the Basil Julep. It’s equally adept at warming up the belly in late winter while promising a gentle spring thanks to its fresh basil bouquet.
I’m the first to admit I’m a late adopter of juleps. The first one I tried, in New Orleans, was a sugary abomination served in a tall glass and topped with soda water. I couldn’t drink it. The second one was so stiff I swear it was straight whiskey with perhaps a sprinkle of sugar and small whiff of mint. I only took a couple of sips. The third time must be the charm because this julep seems to have its proportions figured out. It’s not too sweet, but it does start out quite bourbon-y; fortunately, its strength diminishes gradually as the giant snow cone of ice slowly melts and dilutes the drink. The basil is just right, too. It’s lovely and subtle on the nose with each sip. If this is what spring tastes like — sweet and herbaceous with enough force to make its presence known — bring it!
- 2 large basil leaves, plus one sprig for garnish
- 1/2 oz simple syrup (heat equal parts sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate)
- 1-1/2 oz Knob Creek bourbon whiskey
In the base of a cocktail shaker, lightly muddle the basil leaves with the simple syrup. Add the bourbon and stir to combine. Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice and then pour the drink over the ice, straining out the basil. Garnish with the basil sprig.