It’s time for another installment of the internet’s most alcoholic inter-blog feature: Mixology Monday!  This month the theme was chosen by the gals at Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails: Boston – gals who share my love of both delicious adult beverages and excitingly cumbersome titles (talking to you, If on a winter’s night a traveler)!  In their words, “The First Time” is

[…] inspired by a chance encounter I had with an almost-famous Christian rock musician who, at age 32, had never had a cocktail. “I’d like to try one sometime,” he said, “What do you think I should have?”

Now, this of course makes me want to make up a drink for The Hold Steady (“She said, ‘I’m not going to do anything sexual with you… I’m kind of saving myself for the scene“), whom I still love, Boys and Girls in America notwithstanding.  But there are two problems with that idea.  First, I’m pretty sure that those guys are mostly about PBR and cheap whiskey, so I am totally glad I am not drinking buddies with them, and, second, it is 5 AM, and I am only writing this at the moment due to horrifying insomnia.  If it weren’t closer to my wakeup call than bedtime, I’d be pouring a shot of something to put myself back under, so I don’t think I’m really up to making up a new drink that is, um, completely fantastic.  Something like “Mix two shots of whatever’s at the front of your bar with one shot of your tears of frustration.  Serve warm”.  Appetizing!

But “The First Time” is awesome, because I have spent years introducing my friends to cocktails, and so I do not have to think.  Without doubt, the drink that has made the most first-timers beg for seconds is the Basil Gimlet.

Basil Gimlet

  • 2 oz gin (I used Plymouth)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 5-10 fresh basil leaves
    Put lime juice, syrup, and basil leaves in a mixing glass.  Muddle thoroughly, then add gin and shake well with ice.  Strain (double-strain if you don’t like basil bits, but I think they are pretty) into a cocktail glass, garnish with basil flowers or a fresh basil leaf.

I really can’t count the number of times I have made these at parties, for my parents, for my friends, for people I don’t really know who just seemed to show up at my apartment… I have never gotten a bad reaction.  And I could drink them all day.  Making them with purple basil is especially nice, because it has more of a floral note that plays nice with the gin, but it also makes an unmanly, pink drink, rather than the beautiful deep green of standard Genovese basil.

So why is there no picture?  Sadly, basil is not in season in central Illinois (read: Hell), so I didn’t actually make one of these to go with this post (5 AM notwithstanding, I would damn well have made one for the picture – that is how committed I am to my craft).  So I wanted to share that, because, seriously, drink one now if you can get basil.  Beg off work, if you have to – you’ll thank me later.  But if you can’t, like me, because you are stuck in a place that god clearly did not mean us to live, I have something to take the edge off that will also do a good job making unbelievers see the light: The Americano.

The Americano

  • 2-3 oz Campari (I use Cynar, actually, but you could even use Aperol)
  • 2-3 oz Italian vermouth (Cinzano, but Vya or Carpano Antica are better)
  • Soda water (I make my own – it’s really nice!)
    Build in a glass!  In an ice-filled tumbler, mix Campari and vermouth, give a stir, and then fill to the top with soda water.  Garnish with an orange slice.

Alright, fair’s fair – actually there’s no picture for this because we’re out of soda chargers, too; I’m failing at this MxMo.

Like the Basil Gimlet, this is a top-five, desert-island drink, especially because it’s at its best in warm conditions.  The bitterness of the Italian aperitif liqueurs really stands out here; rather than being overwhelming they are refreshing, like eating a cold grapefruit (hey, a Paloma could have also been in the running for this post) on one of those summer mornings where it’s already too hot at 6 AM.  This is really like grown-up soda – no more alcoholic than a glass of wine, but way cooler.  It’s also a good introduction to Campari and its ilk, whose bitterness often intimidates people.  Finally, it requires no special barware and uses cheap ingredients, so, if the reason the person you’re making this for has never had a cocktail is that they’re retarded, and they don’t like this, you can have it yourself without feeling too bad.

The only problem with the Americano is that everyone will assume you are making them coffee – there is no solution to this problem.  Just grit your teeth, explain (again), and pour the stuff down their necks till they get the idea.

And now some sleep would be a really good idea.  Until next month, if possible, when I promise there’ll be pictures.