May 232013

Cucumber Basil Gimlet + Spiced Candied Walnuts

I’ve been drinking this cocktail for a solid year — in fact, I declared it my 2012 Summer Cocktail last April, and I’ve barely put down the shaker since. If you’re looking for something special to perk up your Memorial Day plans, give this gimlet a go.

This Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka nicely walks the line between the delicate sweetness of freshly sliced cucumber and the slight herbal/bitter quality of cucumber peel, and I’m just crazy about it.

Now, my kind of cocktails can be described using any or all of the following: icy, bracing, sharp, clean, refreshing, herbal, bitter, strong. You’ll notice that “sweet” and “fruity” didn’t make the list. But if you lean toward the sweeter side of things, just up the sugar syrup a bit. The original recipe called for twice as much as I like in mine.

Pairing: Spiced Candied Walnuts

These irresistible, perfectly crispy/spicy/sweet candied walnuts are straight out of At Home with Michael Chiarello: Easy Entertaining – a great addition to anyone’s cookbook library. It’s full of that Chiarello-branded Napa casual vibe and really good recipes that I’ve enjoyed sampling over the years. There are some sauteed chickpeas that I regularly crave, a blue cheese fondue that was a happy surprise, a brilliant blood orange white sangria, great ideas for simply-infused oils, and much more. (And flipping through it again recently, I have my eye on the piadina dough for grilled flatbread/pizza/open-face sandwich creations…)

I know it’s a little late notice to purchase this book in time for the holiday weekend, but the walnut recipe is online. (You may have to login to the site — or create a login — but it’s worth it!) Don’t let that stop you from ordering the book though. It’s a keeper.

I love these with just about any cocktail, including this one. But I also regularly pair this gimlet with a simple platter of carrot sticks and bowl of hummus. (And I wouldn’t say “no” to potato chips, either…)

Recipe: Cucumber Basil Gimlet

10-12 medium-sized fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 ounces Crop Organic Cucumber vodka (or other cucumber-infused vodka of your choice)
the juice of a small lime (use a citrus reamer to get all the juice and some flesh, too)
1/4 ounce sugar syrup

Place the fresh basil in a cocktail shaker and use a muddler to mash it into pieces, releasing the oils from the leaves. Add the other ingredients. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Makes 1 cocktail.

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