The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

Guest post by the PhoBlograpHusband

Seriously, summer!?! Three days of suck-it-Trebeck humidity and thunderstorms, capped off by a 67-degree Friday and foggy in the middle of the day, that’s your idea of a grand entrance? Rose and and I have been looking forward to debuting these fantastic-for-summer, mouthwatering concoctions for months and this is what you give us?

(Yes, we’re bitching about the weather two days in a row, but it has really sucked...)

So long as you allow me a half-hour of relative sunlight on Saturday mornings so I can hit the farmer's market in peace, I won’t let you spoil my fun. The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing is perhaps the perfect seasonal cocktail for the first week of summer, when farmer’s-market strawberries and basil are at their ripest and most abundant.

I’ve seen a few strawberry and basil cocktails out there before, but they are generally vodka-based and come off as little more than a slightly boozy summer salad. Our way around this was grappa. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with grappa my whole drinking life. I want to love it but I usually end up hating it. Though I’m not one to shy away from straight liquor, the burn of grappa is just a little too aggressive, the finish a little too long. Turns out that grappa’s in-your-faceness was just the thing to give what could have been an all too saccharine and ethereal cocktail real substance.

The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

1 ¼ ounces Finger Lakes Distillery Grappa

¾ ounce Grand Marnier

1 ¼ ounces club soda

4-5 basil leaves

2 strawberries

¼ teaspoon Colonel De’s Mint Julep sugar

Muddle strawberries, basil and sugar (regular sugar will work if you can’t get some from the Colonel) at the bottom of a highball glass. Fill glass with ice and add grappa, Grand Marnier and soda and stir or lightly toss back and forth into a tumbler.

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The Swamp Thing

Guest post by the very British Nick Leftley, senior editor at Maxim and a mate made for drinking with

A few months ago, I was out on a tequila-tasting night courtesy of the charming and spectacularly agave-obsessed folks at Don Julio. After tasting every variety of tequila they make (and at this point, I'd personally recommend the Don Julio 1942, an Anejo tequila that's creamy, peppery and as good for sipping as most decent Scotches), master distiller Enrique de Colsa introduced us to the concept of the Luxury Drop.

The Luxury Drop ­ -- rather than, as it sounds, being hurled out of a helicopter made of crushed velvet  --­ is Don Julio's attempt to bring civilization to the untamed wilds of the classic tequila shot. Everyone who's ever licked salt off the base of their thumb before throwing back a shot of cheap, nasty tequila and shoving a wedge of lemon through their grimace can probably agree that, as traditional as it is, it is also to classy drinking what eating a sandwich you found in the dumpster is to fine dining. (Anyone who has never taken this shot has clearly never actually been in a bar, ever).

That's why Don Julio want to re-invent it as something special, while still retaining the basic character, and to this end have invited several of the world's finest chefs and mixologists to whip up surprising and delicious alternatives. There are just three rules to making one: it has to involve a shot of tequila; it has to have a routine (something other than just downing the shot); and it has to have a name.

At this point in the proceedings, a large table covered in cocktail ingredients was unveiled, and every person present was invited to try their hand at inventing a Luxury Drop. So, brusquely bypassing the mounds of glistening strawberries and blueberries for the fripperies they were, I grabbed a handful of fresh basil and went to work. The murky green concoction I ended up with tasted like a delicious salad that's somehow managed to get wasted in an Italian bistro on its way out for tacos. Success! Briefly stuck for an appetizing name to give something that looked like particularly verdant marshland (and, also, being a huge nerd), I named it, in typically classy fashion, Swamp Thing.

Enrique ­ -- who, lest we forget, is Don Julio's master distiller ­ -- declared it to be one of the finest shots he's ever taken, and guys, this man knows about tequila shots. And so, in the happiest ­ and smuggest of all possible endings, a few days later I received a bottle of Don Julio 1942, signed by Enrique himself, to say thanks for inventing the Swamp Thing.

And we all lived drunkily ever after.

The Swamp Thing

2 shots silver tequila

Juice of half a lime

Spoonful agave syrup

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Cracked black pepper

Muddle the basil leaves in a shaker, then shake vigorously with the tequila, lime, syrup and ice. Strain into a couple of shot glasses, then sprinkle the black pepper on the base of your thumb. Lick off the pepper, down the shot.

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