Category Archives: Thai basil



Watermelon and bourbon is not the kind of combo that sounds as if it will work – and yet it does, beautifully, in this celebratory drink that showcases notes of vanilla, chocolate and toffee offset by a good balance of ripe sweetness and refreshing tart notes. These go down a treat on a hot day – and they’ll disappear as fast as their namesake, so consider making a whole jugful if you’re serving them to a crowd.


125ml watermelon puree (to make it, just blend chunks of seedless watermelon together until they’re liquified)

5 fresh Thai basil leaves

30ml sugar syrup

7ml lime juice

45ml bourbon


Old-fashioned or tumbler


Muddle the basil, sugar syrup and lime juice in a mixing tin. Add about 6 good chunks of ice plus remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour the whole lot, including the ice, into the glass. Garnish with a basil leaf if desired, and serve.


This delightfully refreshing, addictive drink is from Asian Cocktails by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009), which, curiously, seems to feature lots of cocktails inspired by Asia but none from any Asian bars. Perhaps that’s because back when it was published, the cocktail craze hadn’t hit Asia? There are definitely truckloads of great bars there now – if you’re ever in Singapore, say, then check out Library, while over in Myanmar there’s the lovely Gekko.


Modern mango daiquiri


Just as it’s hard to get children to eat vegetables unless you hide them in chocolate cake (the vegetables, not the children – though in some cases that would improve the children), sometimes it’s hard to get adults to eat their required intake of fruit and veges every day. Make it easy on that recalcitrant adult in your life (come on, we all know one) with this delicious fruit-filled cocktail.


A hint of passionfruit adds an intriguing note to this cocktail, but what makes it truly modern is the garnish of Thai basil leaves. Instruct your imbibers to nibble a leaf before taking a sip – the combination of aniseedy Thai basil and fresh tropical mango works surprisingly well.


1 ripe mango, peel and stone removed, flesh roughly diced

30ml Havana Club anejo rum

15ml passionfruit syrup (we used the 1883 brand)

15ml lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

1/2 cup ice

Sprig of Thai basil, to garnish


Cocktail glass, preferably chilled


Place all ingredients in blender and whizz until the ice is crushed. Pour into cocktail glass, garnish with Thai basil and serve.


Loads easier than getting kids to eat their vegetables.


This one’s by us. We’re clever like that.

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Blue Basil

A tropical holiday isn’t complete without:

a) cocktails on the beach

b) cocktails at a swim-up bar

c) cocktails at a rooftop bar at sunset

d) a visit to a bookshop

If you answered (d), congratulations. You’re such a cocktail nerd that you’ll happily spend at least some of your drinking time browsing the shelves for cocktail books that aren’t available at home. That’s how I found one of my favourite books, Asian Cocktails by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle Publishing, 2009). It’s also how I escaped some small children that had been following me around for days, crying and begging, as sometimes happens in Southeast Asia. This can be quite confronting, especially when you’re their aunt and you’re meant to be minding them while their parents are having poolside cocktails.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, the book features loads of Asian-inspired cocktails, from classics (Singapore Sling) and twists on classics (Lemongrass Gimlet) to new creations such as the Blue Basil, which I recently tried because it includes Thai basil leaves and there’s a pot of the stuff out my back door that’s so rampant I’m worried it might go all Little Shop of Horrors on me if I don’t start using it up soon. (I suppose I could cook something with it but that would require cooking, which is a territory so foreign to me that it has a sign: Halt! There be Dragons.)

The original drink requires Magellan gin, which apparently has a blue-ish colour that gives the drink its name. I haven’t come across it and am not a fan of blue-coloured drinks (they remind me of Windex, which reminds me of cleaning, which I am allergic to), so I switched it for a dry gin, as per the book’s instructions. If you do have Magellan gin, use it – and let me know what you think.


This is a bracing drink that will awaken your senses. The basil lends it an anise flavour – 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Cocktail Tasting Officer) says it tastes like it’s laced with a herbacious ouzo.

From this...

From this…

Blue basil

…to this. Cheers!



3 lime wedges

6 to 8 fresh Thai basil leaves, plus 1 sprig for garnish

3/4 oz (22ml) sugar syrup

2 1/4 oz (67ml) dry gin (I used Tanqueray)

3/4 oz (22ml) freshly squeezed lime juice

splash of soda water

lime wheel, for garnish


Rocks glass. Cause this drink rocks.


Muddle lime wedges, basil leaves and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a good scoop of ice, gin and lime juice, and shake well. Pour into a rocks glass, add more ice if needed, top with soda and stir briefly. Garnish with lime wheel and basil sprig.

(If you don’t like lime chunks and herbs floating about in your drink, strain it into a rocks glass that’s half-full of ice, then top with soda and garnish.)


Much, much easier than fighting your way past the Thai basil version of Audrey II.


According to the aforementioned book, the Blue Basil was created by John Blue of the (now closed) Vietnamese restaurant Sapa in New York City.


The first time I made this cocktail, I followed the instructions carefully and the result was a refreshing, complex drink with a subtle hint anise. The second time, the CTO and I decided it needed more Thai basil and so I tripled the amount. This was politely described as ‘medicinal’ and more accurately described as a fuck-up. If you really, really like Thai basil, perhaps double the amount but don’t go any further – you want a balanced, interesting drink, not something that makes you feel like you’ve been shoved face first into a herb garden.

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