We are big wine people, in case you haven’t guessed, but lately (probably spurred most by my trip to the Dominican Republic with Brugal) we have been drinking a lot of cocktails! A lot of cocktails. What usually makes me shy away from cocktails is that everything else that goes into the glass with your favorite rum, vodka or tequila can tend to be cloyingly, sugary sweet.
The nice thing about cocktails today is that everyone from mixologists to home drink makers are looking to whatever is fresh and in season to use in their favorite cocktail mix, instead of those old, pre-packaged sweet-n-sour bottles that were the go to for so many years. In our experimentation of at-home cocktails we made a mixer out of some left over watermelon and added fresh mint and fresh basil. Simply delicious when mixed with a little club soda or ginger ale and a silver tequila and lime, like Patron, or rum, like Brugal’s Extra Dry triple distilled white rum. Cucumbers are also everywhere right now, a few are even finally popping up in our garden. Grating fresh cucumber into a thyme and mint infused simple syrup makes an incredible mixer for vodka or gin, like Van Gogh Cool Peach Vodka, Pimm’s No. 1 or a classic Beefeater.
5 Fresh mint leaves
5 Fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
Muddle 5 mint leaves and 5 big basil leaves with a third of a piece of lime together in a cocktail shaker. Add this to 1/3 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water to a small sauce pan and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar melts into the water to form a simple syrup. Let cool slightly. (You can make your measurements 50/50 if you want a slightly sweeter syrup. The watermelon is pretty sweet so these measurements worked for our palate.) Meanwhile add 2 1/2 cups of seedless watermelon (rind removed) to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the simple syrup (with the mint and lime) to the pureed watermelon. Cover and refrigerate for an hour then strain through a mesh sieve. Use the strained juice, discard the rest.
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
5 whole thyme stems
10 mint leaves
1/2 cucumber, skin removed and inner seeds scooped out
Add the sugar, water and herbs to a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has melted into the water then remove from heat. Using a microplane grate the cucumber into the water. Cover and let sit for about an hour then strain using a mesh sieve. Use the water and discard the rest.