5 Ingredients or Fewer

Basil Vodka Gimlet Cocktail

by:
June  2, 2021
4 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

I am for the most part a wine and beer guy, but every now and again I reach for something a bit stiffer. In the cold months, that would be a bourbon, and in the summer, it’s a basil vodka gimlet.

When the gimlet was developed, it called for Rose’s lime juice, a popular cocktail ingredient that was originally sweetened to help preserve it as a source of vitamin C for long ocean voyages. It was often mixed with gin, the spirit of choice for British sailors, as it was thought to have medicinal qualities. Once the danger of scurvy at sea was no longer a concern, Rose’s gained popularity as a way to replace the simple syrup in lime-forward cocktails like rickeys, daiquiris, and of course, gimlets. Nowadays, bartenders lean more towards freshly squeezed lime juice over the bottled variety, but Rose’s still maintains a loyal following among cocktail enthusiasts. We’ll definitely be squeezing our own limes for this one—there’s really no substitute for that vibrant zing.

Flavored and infused gimlets can include fresh fruit that pairs well with lime, like grapefruit or raspberries. You’ll also find versions that feature herbs like rosemary, lavender, mint, or—in the case of this recipe—fresh, peppery basil. While gin is traditional in this classic cocktail, I’m admittedly not much of a gin drinker in general. When I encountered a basil gimlet at a restaurant years ago, I immediately fell in love, and vowed to come up with a vodka version ASAP. You can use either vodka or gin in this formula and tailor it to your preferred strength, but I find that gin’s botanical complexity can be overshadowed by the sharpness and sweetness of the lime juice and simple syrup. Vodka brings more subtlety to the table, and doesn’t compete with the tangy flavor that makes this drink delicious.

This refreshing green concoction is the result of that effort launched so many years ago, and is a perfect sip for hot weather entertaining when basil is in peak season. Try different varieties, like purple, lemon, or Thai sweet basil to add different flavor notes to the finished product.
Oui, Chef

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Oui, Chef is a father of five, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, and a food blogger.
WHAT: A pitch-perfect blend of basil, fresh lime juice, and vodka that was made for sipping with friends.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Oui, Chef gets all the ratios just right: This gimlet has the perfect touch of sweetness, tang, and zip. Drink it while the weather's still warm, or shake up a batch in the middle of winter for a much-needed drop of bright, citrusy sunshine. —The Editors

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Serves 2
Ingredients
  • 6 large basil leaves, torn into thin strips
  • zest of 1/2 lime, finely grated
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 1/2 ounces vodka
  • small basil sprigs, to garnish
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Add the basil strips, lime zest, lime juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Crush the basil with a muddler, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the liquid to infuse.
  2. Add the vodka, then fill the shaker 2/3 full with ice. Cover and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain the cocktail into 2 chilled martini glasses, top each with a small sprig of basil, and serve immediately.
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I am a father of five, who recently completed a two year professional hiatus during which I indulged my long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse myself in all things French. I earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. About six months ago started "Oui, Chef", which is a food blog that exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my children a few things about cooking, and how our food choices over time effect not only our own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences through the blog, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, cooking healthy meals as a family, passing on established familial food traditions, and perhaps starting some new ones.

30 Reviews

Ev R. September 2, 2015
what is a simple syrup
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. September 2, 2015
Heat equal parts water and sugar over low heat in a saucepan until sugar is fully dissolved, then let cool before using. This simple syrup is great in cocktails, or to sweeten iced tea or coffee.
 
roryrabbitfield February 28, 2015
Could this be made in a big batch and served in a punch bowl?
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. March 1, 2015
I don't see why not, though the basil might get a little funky (off color) if it needs to sit out too long. I would just recommend adding ice to the glasses when served as opposed to adding to the punch bowl where it would melt and dilute the drink. Have a great party!
 
Linda D. March 4, 2014
I keep several simple-syrups on hand for my vodka and gin drinks: mint, basil, and rosemary.
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. March 4, 2014
HA....you sound like my kind of gal!
 
Judi February 16, 2014
What's the difference using gin? Thanks
 
Mickey K. April 9, 2013
Use Hanger One basil-infused vodka and add a dash of Domaine de Canton for an Emperor and I.
 
fayeballs April 17, 2013
Ive never seen that vodka before, sounds good.
 
Keith W. March 22, 2013
This is a great recipe, but it only makes ONE serving. Not two.
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. March 22, 2013
Thanks....guess I need to get me some larger martini glasses ;-)
 
TSmith March 22, 2014
Agreed! The only problem with this was our glasses were empty too quickly.
 
EatArt October 15, 2012
Yummy! Only suggestion is to reduce sugar syrup by 1/2 so it's more tart. Salut!
 
fayeballs April 17, 2013
good call!
 
fxjude September 23, 2012
We normally drink wine, wine and more wine, but this sounded so tantalizing I had to try it. I used some mint simple syrup left over from making melon sorbet, but otherwise made it as written....though admittedly I did double the volume. Since when is a 3oz drink enough for two on a hot Sunday afternoon? Especially one as superb as this!
 
Foodiewithalife September 23, 2012
Sounds lovely. It's only 9:30am, is it too early to break out the martini shaker?
 
Euro K. September 23, 2012
I love, love, love this. My husband is a vodka drinker, I prefer gin. My question is if this translates well to gin using the same ingredients and proportions, or do I need to futz with the recipe?
 
Panfusine September 22, 2012
Made this yesterday with a bit of fresh ginger thrown in. it was awesome!
 
gingerroot September 21, 2012
Congrats on the wildcard win, Oui, Chef! I know what I'll be enjoying this weekend...
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. September 20, 2012
Thanks all for your kind words....only wish I had a pool to sip one by. Cheers - S
 
fiveandspice September 20, 2012
Congrats on the wildcard Steve! This looks so refreshing!
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. September 20, 2012
Thanks fiveandspice....yeah, refreshing in a dangerous kind of way.
 
Kitchen B. September 20, 2012
Congratulations Steve......I have basil in my garden, vodka on the counter......I just might be reaching for some. Gorgeous
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. September 20, 2012
HA...you know you want to Ozoz!
 
Panfusine September 19, 2012
Sounds Awesome, HAVE to try this!
have to make this before the basil plant outside withers!
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. September 20, 2012
It's never too late for one last sip of summer.
 
Lizthechef September 19, 2012
Congrats on a beautiful summer cocktail!
 
Helen's A. July 28, 2011
Looking forward to trying this. Congratulations on the EP!
 
wssmom July 14, 2011
I was mulling something like this, but your version is PERFECT!!!
 
Author Comment
Oui, C. July 15, 2011
Thanks wssmom! I could actually go for one of these now...if only I had a pool. - S