Blueberry Basil Vodka Gimlet

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Christiana George
Christiana George
Welcome to The Tart Tart, my not-so-tart take on food, writing, and photography. I decided to start up this sucker after repeated nagging from Chris, my fiance, who cannot understand why the sight of a farmer’s market would send me into ecstatic convulsions (okay, total overstatement. I can be quite the histrionic at times).With that said, my interests, though chiefly in food, also span fashion, design, literature, and photography. So don’t mind the seemingly non sequitur odds and ends I toss in posts at times.

Who was it that said you could kick a habit by avoiding it for 21 days? I believe it was Benjamin Franklin. Wise man. I am not so wise, and even less strong of will, so it’s taken me this many years to heed his words. But I’ve finally gone and done it: I think I’ve kicked my chocolate habit. Huzzah!

Instead, I’ve funnelled my sweet tooth into fruit. With a passion. As in, I’m running high on fructose, like a hummingbird. What do they call this type of behavior again? Sublimation perhaps? (I used to know all this stuff back in high school, when Jungian dream analysis and Freudian psychoanalytic mumbo jumbo fascinated me. Nowadays, I choose to direct my attention towards resisting substances causing weight gain. Who said you become wiser the older you get?) I’m not sure if it’s really an improvement (I was reading an article the other day about how eating fruit is just as bad as eating candy. Of course, I found it on one of those websites that sensationalizes everything—I really need to unsubscribe from their email lists) but it’s certainly better for me psychologically.

With all the excess of fruit in the apartment, I’ve been finding non-dessert-like ways of incorporating it into my diet. I absolutely love fruit in salads and sauces (peach salsa!), but of course, I can’t ignore the fact that cocktails make the perfect vessels for truly capturing their essence.

At what point is a drink no longer the drink it purports to be? Because I’m pretty certain that real gimlets contain neither lemon juice nor vodka nor sparkling water nor basil nor blueberry. I’m pretty certain a real gimlet, at least according to authority figures like Raymond Chandler (heck YES), is just a beverage containing gin and lime juice. Half and half, no more no less.

So as far as naming terminology goes, I don’t know how much artistic license I have to call this cocktail thing a gimlet. It’s based on a gimlet recipe; maybe that’s good enough? Or maybe I just need to come up with an original name for it to avoid confusion.

Wherever it stands, I can tell you that it tastes remarkably similar to a certain kombucha flavor I used to be pretty obsessed with. Does that sound weird? Let me try to explain with this play-by-play: when you take a sip, a menthol-like taste sort of hits you first that quickly transitions into an herby, funky tang. It blossoms out, mellows, and leaves behind the very subdued, almost solemn flavor of blueberry. A mishmash of elements, but kind of addictive anyway.

What got me thinking about this drink was actually the bunch of lime basil I’d bought at the farmer’s market. It smelled intoxicatingly of lime and lemongrass and that whole family of summery aromatic sours. I sort of swooned. I don’t know, I guess I just have a soft spot for tart things you know? Anyway, I tried using it in a caprese salad but it was a bit too lime-y, so I decided to turn my thinking towards a drink instead.

Whether you use lime basil or regular basil (or lemon basil! There are literally 10 varieties of basil at my greenmarket.), I don’t think the taste of the drink will be impacted too much. However, I am going to be particular and insist that you try it with vodka rather than gin, which overpowers the rest of the flavors.

As an aside, something kind of freaky happened when I was making the simple syrup, or rather, afterward. I’d just placed a jar of the stuff in the fridge to cool and resumed work at my computer, when I faintly registered the sound of buzzing outside the window. I didn’t really think about it, but the sound soon became a droning that I couldn’t ignore. When I looked out the window, there was a small swarm of bees outside! It was so eerie, because they were all flying about frantically, trying to get past the screen. (Thank god for screens.)

After my mini freakout had subsided, I reasoned, either Beelzebub was hanging around nearby (I watch a lot of scary movies), or there was some scent attracting them to the apartment. It turns out, bees love basil.

Brianne! Basil for your bees!

One year ago: Caponata


Adapted from Gourmet


  • 4 parts blueberry basil syrup (recipe below)
  • 3 parts vodka
  • 3 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Seltzer water to top off individual glasses


Stir together all the ingredients into a pitcher filled with ice cubes until cold. Strain into individual glasses, filling them up about 3/4 full. Top off with seltzer water and garnish with basil sprigs.


Makes about 2-1/2 to 3 cups


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil sprigs


In a medium saucepan, stir together all the ingredients over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat a little and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Strain the contents into a bowl, pressing hard against the sieve, then discard the solids. After it’s cooled, cover the syrup and store it in the refrigerator until cold.

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