Guys, I’ve really been slacking in the cocktail department lately. I have, like, 75 jobs right now and I thought it would be a good idea to also remodel my kitchen and do most of the work myself. Oh, and to get myself a related assignment with DIY Network to cover some costs so I’d also be on a super tight deadline. You may very well be asking, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” And believe, me, I’m asking the same damn thing.
Anyway, it was warm for about a day and a half in the Midwest this week, and I got in inspired to make a spicy basil margarita. The spice comes thanks to a jalapeño basil syrup, and is totally something you can adjust depending on your tolerance for heat. You could also infuse the tequila with jalapeño — which honestly might have been a better way to do this. But do you think I actually plan any of this shit ahead of time?
Since I’m all about layering flavors (and apparently making things complicated), in addition to the basil and jalapeño in the syrup, I like to add fresh versions to the shaker when mixing the drink, too. You get subtle variations on flavors if you’re extracting with heat versus shaking the shit out of something with ice. So now you have to do all the things. But really this is all pretty easy. Except after adding the fresh jalapeño slices to the shaker, you should double strain the cocktail — use a regular strainer and a mesh strainer — unless you want seeds in your drink (which honestly is not really a horrible thing, especially if you like heat).
SPICY BASIL MARGARITA
2 ounces tequila
3 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce basil-jalapeño syrup (see below)
½ fresh-squeezed orange juice
Sea salt (and some grapefruit) for garnish
Extra basil leaves and jalapeño slices
Lime wedge for garnish
Club soda, optional
Moisten the rim of an old fashioned or stemless wine glass with a lime wedge, then gently roll the rim of the glass on a plate of sea salt and set aside. Add the tequila, lime juice, basil-jalapeño syrup, and orange juice to a cocktail shaker or wide-mouth mason jar with a handful of ice, a few basil leaves and a few slices of jalapeño (with seeds), then shake the shit out of it and double strain it into the salt-rimmed glass. Add a handful of ice or a large ice cube, garnish and enjoy! Oh, and I sometimes like to give it just a tiny splash of club soda for some effervescence, but it’s totally unnecessary.
To make the basil-jalapeño syrup: Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Once it reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add 4 (more if you want it really spicy) fresh jalapeños (sliced however, with seeds) and about a cup of loosely-packed basil leaves. Cover, and let it steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discard the green shit, then set the syrup aside (or refrigerate it) to cool. This will make about 1 cup and the extra will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to two weeks (and honestly, it will probably keep longer but I’m covering my ass here, okay?).
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