When I was a kid, I didn’t appreciate the wonders of allowing savory and sweet to coexist. Sweets were sweets. Fruit belonged with other fruit, and with desserts, not salads with vegetables, and definitely not roasted alongside savory dishes. Herbs were what mom stirred into spaghetti sauce and enchiladas, not to be used in fruit salads, or god forbid, lemonade. I was a bit of a food racist in my younger days.
I was reminded of this when I poured my 4-year-old nephew a glass of this thai basil lemonade. He said “What’s that green stuff in my lemonade?” I explained that it was basil, and that it makes the lemonade taste even better. I thought in my infinite auntie wisdom, I could teach his little palate to accept the mingling of fruits and herbs . He objected. Apparently, kids just don’t like green stuff floating in their lemonade. After I strained all the “little green things” out for him, he drank up and said “Mmm, that’s good lemonade. I like it much better without the weed in it”. Good boy.
Sure, this post is about a particular lemonade you can make with a particular herb. What this post is really about though, is a technique you can use to your heart’s content, with any herb, and any type of drink. Muddling! Muddling is normally used to make alcoholic beverages, like mojitos, by crushing mint leaves with limes, but the technique can be used to create infinite combinations of herb-infused beverages. If you have a muddler, fantastic! If not, worry not. You’ll just need another object with an aptitude for smashing and crushing, like a big wooden spoon.
While first sipping this lemonade, your taste buds may think, Mmm, a classic tart, sweet lemonade. The real magic happens after the first sip, when an exotic note of anise comes through, and your taste buds say, ooh, what’s that? It’s classic enough for a kid to enjoy, but different enough to pique the interest of even your foodie-est friends.
Calling all flavors, savory and sweet, herbal, tart and fruity! Unite, my friends! Don’t over-think it, and don’t be confuddled! Go and find some herbs to muddle!
Thai Basil Lemonade
Makes 6-8 Servings
The possibilities for muddled drinks are endless! Any type of tender herb (like mint or thyme leaves) can be muddled without straining. If using tougher herbs such as lavender or rosemary, straining is a good idea. If serving to kids, straining is always recommended! This method can work with any kind of lemonade, limeade, club soda, or agua fresca.
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large organic lemons, quartered
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 2 or 3 juicy medium lemons
1/2 cup (packed) thai basil leaves
9 cups water, divided
3-4 cups ice
additional lemon slices to garnish
Make the simple syrup: Heat both sugars, and one cup of the water in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Place the quartered lemon, thai basil leaves, and half of the simple syrup in the bottom of a large pitcher. Using a muddler, or a wooden spoon, crush and smash the lemon pieces and basil leaves, until the basil is fragrant and appears bruised. Add the lemon juice, the remaining 8 cups water, and ice to the pitcher, and stir to combine. Sweeten to taste with the remaining simple syrup. Pour into glasses and garnish with lemon slices.