The Garden Gimlet, a Basil and Borage Cocktail
Something about eating flowers takes me back to my childhood. I was such a dreamer – running around barefoot with blossoms in my hair. I lived in my own world, like most little girls do. I read stories of fairies and elves who feasted on flower petals and wild berries.
Now I’m an adult (technically), and I can’t daydream and play outside all day. But dammit, I can still eat flowers. And what’s more, I can add a splash (or three) of gin, because growing up does have its perks. So let’s talk about flowers that taste sweet and classic cocktails with a homegrown vibe. Let’s talk about the Garden Gimlet.
Originally, I planted a few borage seeds with the intention of drawing bees to my vegetable garden. It worked – the bees loved it. But the plants went crazy. They grew in like small trees that took over my garden. For months they’ve produced a constant supply of gorgeous little blue flowers shaped like stars. And they taste good … a bit like sweet cucumber. I had to do something with them!
Finally, I came upon a book in my local library called Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher. It’s a wonderful book. It contains only a couple of borage recipes, but the page detailing Borage and Basil Simple Syrup called to me. I ran out to my garden and gathered up some flowers and Italian basil. An hour later I had the most delicate, floral little syrup I’d ever tasted!
Since then I’ve tried several variations. I’ve replaced the sugar with honey for two reasons. First, we can all use a little less refined white sugar in our diet. And secondly, the floral notes already present in honey bolster the delicate flavor of the borage. I also reduced the basil in the simple syrup in favor of muddling some basil leaves straight in the cocktail shaker. Just keepin it fresh.
Now in to a cocktail shaker with some gin and fresh lime juice, and you’ve got yourself a lovely green elixir of the most refreshing quality. The herbaceous gin and fresh tangy lime take on a delicate sweetness from the floral syrup. It’s wonderful.
The Gimlet: A note on the history
The Gimlet is an old drink, though in recent years it’s enjoyed a bit of a renaissance among cocktail sippers. There are a few different stories regarding the true origins of the Gimlet. One thing we know for sure, however, is that it was the drink of choice for British sailors in the 19th century. The original recipe is simply one part gin and one part Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, a product that was produced for the purpose of preventing scurvy for the British naval fleet. Sailors were fed doses of Rose’s lime juice daily.
Leave it to a bunch of sailors to turn medicine into a stiff drink.
Why is it (sort of) good for you?
Okay, this is a tougher one to argue than my usual fare. It is a cocktail, after all. But if you’re going to indulge with a beverage, there are certainly lesser evils.
The Garden Gimlet replaces refined white sugar with honey. Honey contains less simple sugars and more complex sugars than the granulated stuff, meaning your body expends more energy processing honey. This means you accumulate less calories, and have lower blood sugar spikes. Honey also contains trace nutrients like fiber and vitamins, and is naturally free of preservatives.
Basil and borage are both high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Basil is especially high in several vitamins and minerals, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Not bad for an alcoholic drink!
By the way, if you’ve got borage blossoms, you should throw a couple in an ice tray. So simple and pretty in any cocktail. Especially this one.
- 3/4 ounce of gin (the small cup of a jigger)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp Borage and Basil Syrup
- 6 basil leaves
- splash of club soda
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups borage blossoms
- 1/3 cup torn basil leaves
- Add the basil leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker
- Using a muddler, pummel the basil leaves in the shaker
- Add the gin to the shaker and fill halfway with ice
- Place the top on the shaker and shake vigorously for about 1 minute
- Pour into a glass with ice, using a strainer if desired
- Top with a splash of club soda
- Combine 1/4 cup honey with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often
- Combine with basil and borage blossoms in a heat-proof bowl and allow to sit for at least 1 hour.
- Makes 1/2 cup
Cocktail recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s Basil Gimlet.
Simple syrup recipe adapted from Miche Bacher’s Borage and Basil Simple Syrup recipe in her book Cooking with Flowers.