So going back to the catering Annie and I did for Heather's Birthday party, once we were in the midst of making the food and setting the table and whatnot, I got sort of preoccupied and didn't take any pictures. Oops. And believe me, I really wanted to post about most of the things we made, but there was no visual documentation. Being the kind of person who will only buy cookbooks with pictures, I just cannot post anything without them. If I wanted to post any of them, I was clearly going to have to recreate them. In the entertainment industry, we call this "doing a pick up."
Since it was my last week off before going back to work next Tuesday, I wanted to invite my friend Eliza over for dinner. When I'm working the thought of entertaining at my home is a bit much to bear. However, when I'm off, I have several days to plan what I'm making, I have time to shop, and I can take all day to cook if need be. So for my dinner with Eliza, I decided to take it as an opportunity to recreate a few of the dishes we did for Heather's party. The perfect place to start is with the signature cocktail we did for the party. This recipe comes from the July 2007 issue of Gourmet.
There is varying opinion as to what exactly a gimlet is. Some say it's vodka or gin and Rose's Lime juice and nothing else other than a wedge of lime. Others include a little simple syrup. Personally I can't stand Rose's lime juice which is why I love this version. It's fresh all the way.
(for the lemon basil simple syrup)
4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs (top 4 inches; from a 1/2-pound bunch)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
9 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest, with the bitter, white pith cut off with a small paring knife.
(for the gimlets)
2 cups basil lemon syrup
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (from about 15 lemons)
sprigs of basil
thin slices of lemon
First make the infused simple syrup. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Let stand at room temperature, covered, 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour.
Strain syrup thourough a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. The resulting syrup is a really pretty greenish yellow. It keeps, covered and chilled for a least a week.
Next squeeze the lemon juice. I think we know how to squeeze lemons, but do roll them on the counter first. It loosen the fibers inside and when you squeeze them, you'll get more juice. Strain the juice to remove any seeds and place in the refrigerator to chill. This can be done up to 5 days in advance.
It seriously makes a huge difference using freshly squeezed juice, rather than store bought. I mean think back to the first time you tried fresh squeezed orange juice after only drinking it from concentrate. And it really doesn't take that long. Whenever I need to squeeze large amounts of lemon juice, I get the bags of lemons from Trader Joes. I have very consistent results with them. Each bag usually contains five lemons and yields just slightly over 1/2 cup of juice.
To make the gimlets, stir together all ingredients in a pitcher, then strain into 8- to 10-ounce glasses (such as Old Fashioned) filled with ice. Garnish with the fresh basil sprigs and lemon slices. Alternately you could shake the gimlets in a cocktail shaker and serve them in a martini glass rimmed with sugar that has been mixed with grated lemon zest.
So this is really just a variation on the Vodka with Lemon & Rosemary that I posted back in May, but this recipe makes a pitcher, rather than just one drink. Another great thing is, you can totally make this in advance and just put the pitcher in the refrigerator and bring it out when guests arrive. For Heather's party, Annie and I doubled this recipe and served it in a big glass jar with a ladle, so guests could help themselves. I tell you, it was a hit and once you make it, you'll know why. It's the perfect summer cocktail. So fresh and light, tart and with just a little sweetness. The basil infuses the drink with an almost minty scent but with an underlying licorice flavor. They go down like you are just drinking a big glass of lemonade. But be careful, they're potent. It's the kind of drink that is made for drinking outside in the sunshine. It would be perfect for a barbeque, or to pack in a thermos to take along to the beach, a picnic, to the Hollywood Bowl or to a screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You could top each glass with a little club soda if you want, to add a little fizz, but they really are perfect as is.
Makes about 8 drinks, or as I like to think, 4 plus refills