created at: 2013-05-01
Last Sunday’s perfect weather couldn’t have come at a better time. Our brand-new grill had just been delivered, and my roommates and I had a refrigerator full of fresh produce and protein thanks to an early-morning trip to Russo’s in Watertown. The birds were singing, our freshly planted herbs were standing tall (for now), and the neighbors’ dog was outside barking incessantly. Clearly, it was time for the first cookout of the season.

Cookouts are all about the food. The beverages—usually beer—are kind of an obligatory staple that don’t get the attention they deserve. So while the corn, burgers, and chicken were on the grill, I whipped up some strawberry basil lemonade that was anything but an afterthought.

Thanks to a simple syrup that’s infused with strawberries and basil and then pureed, this lemonade is packed to the brim with fruity, bright flavor. The original recipe calls for straining out the solids before pureeing. While this still makes a tasty drink, leaving the berries and basil in the sauce and liquefying the whole lot produces a slightly thicker version with even more fruity punch that can easily compete with anything else on the menu.

Strawberry Basil Lemonade
Modified from Strawberry Basil Lemonade by Christine Gallary

For an adult version, spike the lemonade with a bit of vodka or gin.

Makes about 3½ quarts

Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1½ cups sugar
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced ½-inch thick
1 cup basil leaves

2 cups fresh lemon juice, from 12 lemons
8 cups cold water
Lemon slices, strawberry slices, and basil leaves, for garnishing

1. Make simple syrup: Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When sugar has dissolved, add strawberry slices and reduce heat to simmer. After 10 minutes, remove pan from heat and add basil leaves. Set aside and let cool, about 45 minutes.

2. Purée strawberry-sugar-basil mixture and then pass it through mesh strainer. Set aside, discarding solids. You should have roughly one quart of simple syrup.

3. Make lemonade: In large pitcher, combine lemon juice and cold water. Add 2 cups of strawberry-basil simple syrup. Stir to combine. Add more simple syrup to taste. (I used all 4 cups.) Serve chilled, over ice.

4. Add lemon and strawberry slices to the pitcher or garnish individual serving glasses.