The following is the earliest definition of a cocktail comes from 1806, where an answer was provided to the question,

“What is a cocktail?”

“Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters•” (source)

To me, however, a well made cocktail is more than just a tasty libation, it transports me to a time when society had grace and style and took pride in innovating more delicious ways to enjoy spirits. And though just the sheer number of recorded cocktail recipes can seem intimidating, creating your own cocktails at home is as simple and fun as drinking them. You would be surprised at the endless number of possibilities afforded to the five most common spirits (rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, gin) and with them and a little ingenuity you can make delicious never-heard-of cocktails for yourself and house guests.

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The simplest way to start, and it says it right in the name- is to make Simple Syrup. Simple Syrup is equal parts water and sugar to make a syrup that is pretty essential to help curb the booziness of any cocktail. Now here is where it gets fun. You can infuse your simple syrup with anything. That’s right, anything. The following recipe is for a Basil Simple Syrup, which I love to use to make Basil Vodka Soda. It’s light, herby, refreshing and absolutely fantastic. And then a week later, I infused simple syrup with fresh blackberries from my garden. With a nice rye and a bit of bitters I made a Blackberry Old Fashioned.

See where I am going with this? It’s as Simple as Simple Syrup can be to make those high-end cocktails you see at fancy bars, right at home. And let me tell you if you know someone who has an interest in mixology, make them a trio of infused simple syrups (complete with custom labels of course) as a gift and I’m sure you will be the first one they want to try their cocktails out on!

Basil Simple Syrup
Makes One Cup

• 1 Cup water
• 1 Cup sugar
• 12 oz fresh basil ( depending on flavor, 12 oz gives a subtle hint of basil, use more for a stronger taste)

Step 1: Bring water to gentle boil and slowly stir in sugar until it is dissolved
Step 2: Take off heat and add ripped up basil. Ripping it, or pressing it releases it’s natural oils.
Step 3: Let sit for at least half an hour and strain into squeeze bottle of other container.

Basil Vodka Soda
• 1 1/2 oz Vodka
• 3/4 oz Basil Simple Syrup
• Soda Water

Fill old fashioned glass with ice. Add Vodka, basil simple syrup. Top off with soda water, gently stir.

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More homemade drink ideas from James Luster…

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James (14 Posts)

James Luster is a recent transplant from Brooklyn, New York. He's an actor, writer, professional donut maker, and lover of the finer things in life. Currently he's educating himself on the arts of brewing and mixology, and working on his new show set to premier next summer.

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