Friday, January 10, 2014

A cocktail for the January heat wave

Have you noticed that we've had a heat wave this week in Central Texas?  After biting winds and temperatures below freezing earlier in the week, the weather, perhaps realizing that it was unbecoming of a true Central Texas winter, smoothed down its rough edges and produced a hint of sunshine and warmth late this afternoon.

This warming trend is perfect weather for a refreshing cocktail.  And this cocktail was what I was concocting in my head during my wakefulness last night: the Flor de Jamaica Basil Margarita.  Made with good quality tequila, basil simple syrup, a double-strength Flor de Jamaica infusion and a little fresh lime juice, this drink tastes like sunshine and is a panacea for the winter doldrums.

The bright, tart, cranberry-like flavor of the Flor de Jamaica infusion (made with hibiscus flowers) has Vitamin C and minerals, and sources claim multiple health benefits. Will Flor de Jamaica cancel out the deleterious effects of alcohol?  I don't know, but it's worth a try.

The recipe below contains ingredients that you will need to make ahead and, optimally, chill.  Start with the basil simple syrup:

Combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Add a generous handful of fresh basil, stalks and all, cover and let steep until mixture is cool.  Strain into a clean jar or other container and chill, discarding basil leaves.  Makes about 2 cups; keeps for one week in the refrigerator (or freeze for later use).

Now make the Flor de Jamaica Infusion:

Combine 1 1/2 cups Flor de Jamaica (find in places like Fiesta Market or a well-stocked grocery store with a Hispanic foods section) and 4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until volume of liquid is reduced by 1/3.  Strain through a coffee filter (hibiscus flowers can be a bit gritty) into a clean jar, let cool and chill.  Makes about 2 1/4 cups; keeps in refrigerator for one week (or freeze for later use).

Now you're ready to build your cocktail...

The Flor de Jamaica Basil Margarita

plenty of ice
2 oz. good-quality tequila (try to use 100% agave)
1/4 fresh lime
1 oz. Flor de Jamaica infusion
2 oz. basil simple syrup
fresh basil leaves for garnish

Fill a rocks glass with ice.  Pour tequila over ice, then squeeze lime, adding juice and lime to glass.  Add Flor de Jamaica and basil simple syrup.  Stir gently, then garnish with fresh basil leaves.  Makes one cocktail.

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