Summer fresh flavors make for a gardener’s paradise. From tomatoes to peas to summer squash, there’s no shortage of produce making an appearance in stores, farmer’s markets and even in one’s own backyard.
Two of the most common finds — strawberries and basil — cover the fruit to herb spectrum. And while they can come together for a variety of match-ups, over at Ember they meet in a cocktail glass.
Heather Traylor, manager of the St. Simons Island location, said that the vibrancy of the mix has made for one of their most popular libations — the strawberry basil (which also includes infused vodka).
“This is one of the staples here. It’s been here longer than I have ... and I’ve been here for a little over three years,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone loves it.”
The process starts with creating the restaurants signature infused vodka. Glass containers placed behind the bar hold the key, Traylor said.
“We infuse our own vodka in house. For our strawberry basil vodka, we use regular, plain vodka then add in basil and strawberries,” she said.
“We leave that sitting for 10 days and it absorbs everything. You can tell when it’s done because the strawberries are this grey color and all of the flavor is in the vodka.”
Ember crafts a number of concoctions from a similar base. Other infusions include jalapeño ginger vodka, blueberry jalapeño tequila and pecan bourbon. At the Mas, the restaurant’s adjoining, sister location, there’s a menu filled with 50 interesting tequila infusions.
The option of adding flavor through the infusion process allows patrons to avoid the sugary bases found in so many cocktail mixes. The strawberry basil is one that offers big, summery tastes without extras or additives.
Traylor says they also use a homemade brown sugar simple syrup that adds the right sort of sweetness to the drink, bringing an evenness to the beverage.
“I think the brown sugar simple syrup brings out the right taste. The herb and the sweetness also balance each other out. Strawberry is always great to use in cocktails because of the sweetness and the color ... it just pops right out. But the basil gives it that savory ‘herbiness,’” she said.
“It’s fresh and fruity but not too sweet because of the basil.”
Muddling fresh strawberries prior to adding the vodka boosts the sweetness factor. But, Traylor notes, that one can opt for more or less depending upon preference.
“You can control the sweetness though depending on how many strawberries you muddle and how much simple syrup you use,” she said.
“It’s really flexible. You can play with it. We recommend to leave out the simple syrup at first then you can add it in. You can always add more but you can’t take it out.”
2 to 3 strawberry pieces
2 ounces strawberry/basil vodka four count
2 splash simple syrup
2.5 ounces of lime juice
Ice or strawberry infused ice sphere
Take a glass with crushed ice or an ice sphere with a strawberry frozen in the center.
In a shaker, muddle a whole strawberry cut into slices (to make the process easier). Pour in 2 ounces of vodka. Add in two splashes of simple syrup and 2.5 ounces of lime juice.
Shake the drink in a shaker then strain over the ice. Garnish the glass with strawberry slices, a lime and a bit of basil.