Vodka lemonade infused with sumac and basil.
Makes about 8 cocktails
1 cup sugar
A few sprigs of basil (Thai, African or Italian; see notes for specifics on quantities)
1 tablespoon sumac
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cold seltzer water
Optional: extra lemon slices and basil leaves for garnish
1. Make the sumac-basil syrup by dissolving the sugar in 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high. Add the basil and let it simmer gently in the mixture for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sumac. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes, then strain and let cool to room temperature.
2. Make the cocktails:
Fill 8-ounce glasses with ice to about 3/4 full. Add an ounce of vodka to each glass, followed by a half-ounce each of lemon juice and sumac-basil syrup. Fill the glasses with seltzer, give each a quick stir, and serve with the optional garnish.
This has become the unofficial warm-weather cocktail around our pop-up spice shop this year. It’s pink, fizzy and fun, and super-tasty. It’s one of those cocktails you can easily drink a few too many of, especially in warm weather. And especially when you’re chatting with friends. And especially when you somehow blessedly find yourself with no small people depending upon you to keep your head together. But I digress.
I originally created this recipe for a fundraising event to benefit Pink for Africa, a non-profit started by my friend Juls Mills-Lutterodt, who also owns Juls Collection Italian Leather Handbags. The organization helps African and African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer, and tears down cultural and social mores to improve outcomes for women. If you want to make it with African basil like I did that evening, look for it labeled “Thai basil” in Asian markets.
If you’re using Thai or African basil, use just 1 sprig; if you’re using Italian basil, use 2-3 (depending on their size).
Sumac is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern, Persian and north African cuisines. it adds a citrusy flavor and gives this cocktail it’s pretty pink color.
Crushed berry common in Middle Eastern, Persian and north African cuisines. Citrusy flavor is great sprinkled on meat, veggies, fish, salads, or anything you might add a squeeze of lemon to.