I had to Goldilocks my way into San Francisco: my first neighborhood was too preppy, the next one a bit too sketchy, but the third one—Hayes Valley—was just right. I moved there in a time of major transition, before the fancy park and outdoor beer gardens. I quickly became attached to the local businesses from inspired jewelry shops to the quirky The Orbit Room. That bar taught me what a proper drink should be like and that being a regular is well worth it. They also taught me how good basil and bourbon taste together. I've modified the drink to include Gin instead of bourbon but still love it very much.
plus 1 teaspoon for cucumber juice
plus 4 leaves for cocktail
ends trimmed and roughly chopped
For the Basil Simple Syrup: Whisk together 3/4 cup of water with 2/3 cups of sugar or honey in a small saucepan then place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the 2 cups of basi leavesl, and set aside at room temperature to cool, at least 30 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh sieve, discard basil, then cover simple syrup, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
Simple syrup be made up to 1 month ahead. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.
For the cucumber juice: Combine cucumber, 1/4 ounce of the lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey in a mini food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve, pushing on the back to extract juices (you should have about 1/2 cup).
Juice be made up to 4 days ahead. Store refrigerated in an airtight container and shake before using.
For the cocktail: Reserve one basil leaf for garnish then place remaining three basil leaves in a shaker and bruise a few times with a muddler. Add 3/4 ounce cucumber juice, 3/4 ounce Basil Simple Syrup, remaining 1/4 ounce lime juice and add ice. Shake until chilled then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Smack reserved basil leaf between your hands over the glass (to release essential oils) then float on the cocktail’s surface and serve.
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Photography by Christopher Kalima