Maybe it started with the mint in the mojito. Maybe it’s those wonderful drinks with lots of basil and ginger you find in Vietnamese restaurants or fusion cafes. Whatever the reason, when it comes to cocktails, it feels like an herbal moment.
What could be cooler than a cucumber martini? Why, an herbal cucumber martini. Take a handful of chervil from the farmers market -- the flavor is as delicate as its leaf, almost like tarragon that’s been sent to finishing school. Muddle it with cucumber in a mortar, and infuse it into gin with a splash of dry white vermouth, then strain it into a martini glass. How elegant! How sophisticated! It’s light years away from those terribly sweet martini variations.
Berries are just coming into their own in the markets right now, and they’re fabulous with basil and mint. Are you thinking wine cooler?
Puree lots of blackberries and raspberries, add a bunch of basil and mint, and let it steep for a couple of hours. Strain it, add chilled Pinot Gris and a little sweet red vermouth for even more herbal zing, and a bottle of club soda for fizz. Toss in some whole berries, a few slices of lime, and you’ve got a terrific light aperitif to serve at an afternoon soiree.
Now behold that bunch of cilantro, and think of aguas frescas, those juicy but not-too-sweet Mexican fruit drinks: It’s a short step to imagining a whole summerful of crisp coolers right there.
Melons are starting to come in from the Coachella Valley, so a honeydew agua fresca cocktail is just the ticket. How would it be to toss in a serrano chile? Only one way to find out. Oh, and don’t forget the tequila.