But then, this month, this caught my eye: sparkling basil lemonade. A simple enough ingredient list - basil syrup, lemon juice, sugar, club soda, jalapeno coins for garnish. There was just one thing missing ... the booze. And thanks to my recent Mexico City trip, I had mezcal on my mind. Of course mezcal wants to be paired with lime ... and so my new drink, La Flama Blanca, was born.
Yes, East Bound and Down fans, La Flama Blanca is indeed a reference to gloriously foul mouthed Kenny Powers. But the drink's name also fits. I used a clear, young mezcal (joven), handcrafted by Illegal Mezcal in Oaxaca, and shook the concoction with a slice of habanero to add a subtle, lingering heat. As an aside, I love this company's mezcal, and I highly recommend the reposado (rested) and anejo (aged) for sipping neat. If you like single malt Scotch, you will love it.
You can add more or less mezcal here, depending upon how strong you like your cocktails, but whatever you do, choose a quality mezcal, it makes all the difference.
La Flama Blanca
inspired by Better Homes and Gardens' Sparkling Basil Lemonade
For the basil syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
handful (about 10 - 15 large) basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 (or 2) sliced of habanero pepper
6 ounces mezcal
To make the basil syrup, combine the sugar, water, and basil. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool and remove basil leaves.
In a shaker filled with ice, combine 1/2 - 3/4 cup basil syrup with the lime juice, habanero pepper and mezcal. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, filling half to three quarters of the way full. Top with sparkling water, stir. Garnish with jalapeno and fresh basil leaves.
If you like your drinks sweeter, add more basil syrup to the mix. If you want more heat, let the ingredients - minus the ice - sit in the shaker for a few moments with the pepper before adding the ice and shaking. And don't be afraid to add more mezcal! If you're using quality stuff, it will only make your drink better - trust me.