Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cocktail(s) of the Day: Spicy Ginger Basil Margarita

My garden is in for the year (3 varieties of hot peppers, 3 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, mixed salad greens, and, if I'm lucky, watermelons) and my deck is bedecked with containers full of herbs. My gardening skills are rudimentary at best, but I love growing things. The problem is that even my black-thumbed efforts produce more than I can actually use, especially the herbs, and I'm always on the lookout for delightful ways to use 'em up.

Enter the Ginger Basil Margarita my buddy Andy posted as the Margarita of the Month for September last year at his Disney-themed food blog, Eating (and Drinking) Around the World. I had made the necessary ginger syrup over Memorial Day weekend (along with a bunch of other cooking I still need to blog about), and the warm, sunny spring so far means my basil crop is ahead of schedule.

I made two drinks, the first strictly according to the original recipe (which I won't repeat; click through to Andy's place to check it out), using Thai basil from my deck. It's very tasty, with the ginger and basil notes blending with the citrus rather than standing out as distinct flavors. As written, it's not a terribly strong drink (just 1.5 oz of spirits), so I was able to make myself a second, for the sake of experiment, while staying within my recommended daily allowance of ethanol. For this second iteration, I used habanero-infused tequila for heat, and replaced the Triple Sec with Cointreau:

  • 5 fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 1 oz habanero-infused silver tequila (or mix with plain tequila to control heat, to a total of 1 oz)
  • 1 oz ginger syrup (see directions at link above)
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice

Muddle the basil leaves thoroughly in a cocktail shaker with a little ice, then add more ice and all the other ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain to serve. Now, I like a big ol' grownup Icee as well as the next person, and I usually order "house" margaritas frozen with salt... but this drink I poured old-school, up in a chilled cocktail glass, with a sprig of fresh Thai basil for garnish. The heat of the habs and the tang of the ginger cut the sweetness perfectly well, so that a salted rim would be redundant (at best).

I've always liked the combination of chile heat and cold liquid; adding the acid notes of the citrus, the aromatic basil and ginger, and the earthiness of tequila makes for a truly splendid blend of sensations. Try it out... and enjoy!

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