Things I Like: basil lemonade

Ever since working at an Italian restaurant through college, basil has been one of my favorite cooking ingredients. It just makes everything better: pizza, sandwiches, and salads all benefit from this yummy herb. This summer, I've been hooked on a new use for basil: basil infused lemonade.

I know, I know, it sounds really strange. But after ordering it at a restaurant (they were featuring it as their special) and falling in love, I decided I had to make this at home. And, in case any of you are adventurous enough, I'm going to show you how to make it too.

First of all, I suggest growing your own basil. You can definitely buy the FRESH stuff from the store for this recipe, but you'll need a decent amount so if you plan on making this more than once (which I guarantee you will once you try it!) I'd just take the time to buy a basil plant from the garden store and stick it in some dirt. I used plain old sweet basil for this recipe, but I'm sure you could have a good time playing around with different flavors of basil. Or maybe I'm the only one who gets excited at the idea of experimenting with different basil simple syrups. Oh well.

Once you have your basil source straightened out, you can make the simple syrup. Which is, as the name suggests, very simple. These syrups are perfect for lemonades since the sugar completely dissolves, leaving no grainy texture to your drinks! You literally need three ingredients: sugar, basil, and water.

Just put a cup of sugar in a saucepan, and add 1/2 cup water, and about 1/2 cup of washed basil leaves. This is really just a 2:1:1 recipe, so if you want to increase the batch it is pretty easy to make as much as you need. I ended up with about 2/3 cup of syrup from this batch.

Turn the burner onto medium, and keep an eye on it. As soon as it comes to a simmer and the sugar is all dissolved, remove from the heat and let cool completely. I usually give it a few gentle stirs throughout the process just to make sure all the sugar is dissolving.

Once cooled, remove the basil leaves. You can use a strainer if you want, but most of my leaves were big enough that I was just able to pull them out. Then, pour your syrup into a resealable container and keep in the fridge.

Yum, basily goodness! Ok, I'll admit that it doesn't look too tasty in this photo... a bit more like something from a lab sample...

But how good does it look here?

Honestly, the jar above isn't basil lemonade- the post title is a lie. I was out of lemons, so I made limeade instead! Both are absolutely delicious! I really don't think I need to give you a recipe for homemade lemon/limeade- it's pretty foolproof. Just take whatever sized glass or pitcher you want, and add lemon or lime juice (fresh is best)! I put about 1/3 cup juice into a one quart mason jar. Then add your simple syrup- this part is really more about how sweet and basily (my new favorite, made-up word) you want it. I started with equal parts juice and syrup, and went from there until it tasted right. Then, fill the glass with ice and add cold water. Give it a quick stir, and you're done! I'll admit, the basil leaf above was purely garnish- I wouldn't bother if I wasn't going to be taking photos! Next time I might use sparkling water to give it a little fizz... I didn't have any at home (along with the lemons).

Fortunately, I am running to the grocery store after work, and lemons will definitely be on the list!

This basil lemonade has definitely become a staple for me this hot, hot summer- hopefully you like it just as much! Of course, I'd love to know how it turns out if you decide to make it- leave me a note in the comments!

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