Despite its particular profile, that bittersweet juniper flavor that can be so divisive, gin is a remarkably versatile spirit. Beyond its place in bracing, spirit-forward drinks like the Martini or Negroni, it’s also a liquor that pairs well with fruits and herbs. Bartender Mike Di Tota, manager for New York Restaurant group the Smith Restaurant at its Midtown location, plays with this blend of fruit, herbs and gin with the Sacred Grape, a spritzy gin sour that sees Concord grapes and Thai basil bring out the botanical notes of the British spirit.
Distinct from both wine grapes and most popular varieties of table grapes, Concords are large and dark, and usually used as jelly grapes or juice grapes, though there are wines made with them. While they’re most often associated with New England, especially Concord, Massachusetts and the Finger Lakes of New York they do grow in other parts of the country, including the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Midwest. The Sacred Grape uses the grape’s natural sweetness, opting for a homemade puree rather than using a store-bought juice.
While basil is not a rare botanical for using in cocktails, Thai basil is a little more uncommon. These heavily aromatic leaves have an extra level of spice and anise notes, and pair beautifully with gin and grape. Sweet basil can be used as a substitute, but it won’t have the same flavor profile. Either way, making the basil simple syrup is a breeze, as it only involves infusing some sugar water with Thai basil.
Topping with club soda turns this sour into a highball, and ups its bright and refreshing characteristics. While it’s a lovely quaffer at any time of year, it’s especially pleasing when enjoyed outdoors in the spring or summer sun on a lawn or porch.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce Concord grape puree*
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 3/4 ounce Thai basil syrup**
- Club soda, to top
- Garnish: 2 Concord grapes
- Garnish: 2 Thai basil leaves
Add the gin, grape puree, lime juice and basil syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass.
Top with club soda and garnish with Concord grapes and basil leaves.
*Concord grape puree: Puree 1 quart of Concord grapes in a blender or food processor. Use a colander or cheese cloth to strain out the seeds and skins.
*Basil syrup: Heat 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add 1 bunch Thai basil leaves and stems to the sugar mixture. Allow to cool, then strain out solids. Will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.