When I first moved to New York City, I lived in the East Village and was fortunate enough to be near some great restaurants and coffee shops. My favorite was this little place on the corner of E. 11th and Ave B that served basil lemonade in the spring/summer months. It’s a nice change from traditional lemonade or iced tea and from lame baristas who actually use pickup lines like, “You know soy latte is Spanish for ‘I am latte’.” Gag.
Basil lemonade has a sweet, subtle anise flavor from the addition of basil syrup to lemon juice and water. The syrup is a derivation of simple syrup, sugar dissolved in water. By steeping fresh basil in hot water and sugar, the leaves release their oils and infuse the simple syrup making a more fragrant drink than if they were mashed up with cold lemon juice, sugar, and water. Oh, basil lemonade also goes insanely well with vodka or tequila. Just saying.
For a variation you can add just a little black berry puree. Or a lot of vodka or tequila.
This recipe makes enough syrup for a couple of batches of lemonade and can be held covered in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
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Basil Infused Lemonade
- 2 cups basil syrup
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
In a large pitcher, combine the lemon juice, 2 cups cold water, and 2 cups of the basil syrup. To serve, pour into glasses filled with ice cubes.
- 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 cups sugar
Bring basil, sugar, and 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from heat and let stand for 1 hour.
Transfer the syrup to a container and refrigerate until cold. Once thoroughly chilled, strain the syrup through a sieve pressing down on the solids with a wooden spoon. Discard the solids.