Updated: May 21, 2022
Have you ever thought: “there should be an easier way of doing this” when you have to make a lot of Cocktails? Take the contemporary classic Basil Smash for example - parts of basil will get stuck in the coils of your Hawthorne strainer and the walls of your shaker. So you have to clean that up every time you make one, right? Not if you make a basil cordial.
Cordials can make your job a lot easier, whether you’re working behind the bar or at an event, but it also gives you the option to make the cocktail with your own twist.
Not only are you combining the sweet and sour components, you can also add additional flavors, make it look special by clarifying it, and minimize waste by using as many parts of your ingredients as possible.
To make a basil-cucumber cordial you’ll need water, basil, cucumber, white wine, lemon (juice and peels), citric and malic acids, sugar, and some spices (I used coriander and fennel). To clarify the cordial you’ll need agar-agar, and some water to hydrate it in. I’m using an ice bath
Consider this your cocktail prep, which will save you time when you want to make a Gin Basil Smash in a fast and efficient way. Let’s start with blanching the basil.
This process inactivates enzymes that cause browning as well as textural changes and off-flavors. Start by preparing an ice bath and boiling some water. I’ll take around 30 grams of basil, with stems included, and place it into boiling water for about 15 seconds. Then it goes straight into the ice bath for 1 minute. Blanching basil ensures it keeps more flavor, texture, color, and nutritional qualities.
Place the basil on a kitchen towel to dry off a bit.
Then, move on to the cucumber juice. I’ll start with peeling the cucumber. You can soak the peels in water to make cucumber water. I need 60 ml, or 2 oz, of cucumber juice so I think 1 large cucumber will be plenty. But don’t worry if you make extra, cucumber juice is a great hydrator with a high number of vitamins and minerals. I’ll leave the rhymes to Macka B and get the blender.
Click on the link in the description to listen about other benefits of cucumba. You’ll thank me later.
I’ll cut the cucumber into large chunks and pulverize them in a blender. A juicer would be the best option for this, but even a food processor could do a good job as well. To strain the juice I’ll again use a muslin cloth, but a cheesecloth or even a clean kitchen towel would work as well. To squeeze out all the juice I’m using a potato ricer, but you can do this by hand as well. The strained juice will be added to the cordial, and the pulp will be used to make Greek Tzatziki Sauce based on the recipe by Akis Petretzikis.
Besides the cucumber you’ll also need yogurt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and some chopped dill.
For lemon we’ll use the peel and juice. As highlighted in the super juice episode, citrus peel has a tonne of flavor in the essential oils. 1 gram will be enough. And while I'm at it I'll also juice the lemons.
Once we have that we can start adding everything we need for the cordial into the blender, starting with 40 ml of water. For basil, first remove the thickest parts of the stalks then throw blanched basil into the blender. Next, as mentioned before, 60 ml, or 2 oz, of cucumber juice. And of course, drink the rest. Cheers!
If you want the cordial to be non-alcoholic you can up the amount of cucumber juice, but I’ll use 45 ml, or 1.5 oz of a young white wine. This will give the cordial some extra body and a subtle wine undertone. The last liquid component is 45 ml, or 1.5 oz lemon juice. Throw in the lemon peel then add our old friends, citric and malic acids. 4.3 g of citric, and 3.7 g of malic acids. To balance all of those acids we’ll need enough sugar - 108 g, to be precise.
And lastly, crush 0.1 g of coriander and 0.12 g of fennel in a mortar & pestle, before adding to the blender as well. This will release more of the flavors into the cordial. Blend everything for at least 30 seconds. The basil-cucumber cordial is basically done and after filtering, it would be ready to make delicious cocktails. I’ll take it a step further and clarify it, since the cordial would still lose some of its light green color over time.
We’ll do that with 0.8 g of agar-agar, but instead of hydrating it with the cordial itself, like we’ve done in the past, I set aside 60 grams of water that would otherwise go in the cordial as well, just for this. With cucumber being sensitive to heat the cordial might get a cucumber-soup-like flavor if we were to heat up the cordial. Dissolve the agar and as soon as you see signs of simmering take it off the heat. Add the cordial into the agar-agar mixture, to bring down the temperature, whisking constantly. Then transfer this into a bowl that you can place in a freezer or an ice-bath. I add plenty of ice and salt to the water, which lowers the freezing point, making the whole ice-bath colder.
I always try to add the minimal amount of agar, so there’s no metallic taste in the clarified cordial. But that also means this mixture will thicken, but it won’t form a hard gel. For me that took about 2 hours, but it can vary. You should see small lumps throughout the cordial, meaning the solid particles of the cordial are forming around agar. You can also check the temperature, which should be almost as low as the ice-bath.
This should then be ready to gently break apart and filter through a muslin cloth. As always, if the first liquid coming through is still a bit cloudy, pour that back and refilter it, as the agar and solid particles create an additional layer of filtration. In case the result is still not perfectly clear you can use part of this cordial to repeat the whole process.
But I’m happy with my crisp, fresh and clarified cordial.
So now we have our cordial, and the sustainable side dish, we can add just a few more things and make the Elevated Basil Smash - gin (I used Citadelle), 20% saline solution, and Green Chartreuse, for the float.
I’ll be throwing this cocktail, instead of shaking or stirring, so I’ll add ice into the bigger tin, and ingredients into the smaller.
Elevated Basil Smash:
● 45 mL (1.5 oz) Citadelle Gin
● 30 mL (1oz) Basil Cordial
● 2 drops saline solution
● Green Chartreuse float
Even before you start making the cocktail make sure a clear block of ice is already tempering and chilling the glass at the same time.
For gin I’m using the French Citadelle Gin, with bright citrus notes and a peppery spiciness on the finish. 45 ml or 1.5 oz.
That will pair nicely with the flavors and spices of our basil-cucumber cordial. Add 30 ml, or 1 oz of our sweet and sour component. You can scale it up if you're using bigger glass, but keep the 3:2 ratio. Per Cocktail Time tradition, 2 drops of saline solution, to enhance the flavors of our elevated cocktail.
Place a strainer in the shaker tin with ice and start throwing the cocktail from one tin to the other. This adds more air into the cocktail than stirring, but doesn’t make it as cloudy as shaking. It also chills and dilutes the cocktail really well. Once you see the bottom shaker starts getting frosty as well the cocktail is ready.
Drain the glass with clear ice, and pour the cocktail over it.
Give the whole cocktail an additional herbaceous layer with a float of Green Chartreuse. And just so you get a hint of what to expect, a garnish of basil microgreens.
Final touch, the cucumber waste turned into a snack - tzatziki spread over bread. Perfect snack with the cocktail.
Clarified Basil Cordial ingredients:
● 100 g water (40 for the blender, 60 for agar)
● 6 basil stems (⁓30g)
● 60 mL (2 oz) cucumber juice
● 45 mL (1.5 oz) young white wine
● 45 mL (1.5 oz) lemon juice
● 0.10 g coriander seeds
● 0.12 g fennel seeds
● 4.3 g citric acid
● 3.7 g malic acid
● 1 g lemon peel
● 108 g sugar
● 0.8 g agar agar
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To make it easier for you to try these recipes you can grab the bottles from my collection at CURIADA