One of my favorite things to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon is to relax to the sounds of San Francisco. I find that perfect spot on our couch nestled in the bay window at the corner of the living room, where the mid-day sun shines through. The ocean breeze rushing through the Richmond district like a wave of sports cars on parallel straightaways, races east along the streets past our building, and on to the Embarcadero and the bay beyond. It’s a high of 58° outside—the perfect San Francisco weather as far as I’m concerned—which can be chilly in the shadows, but from where I’m perched, like a cat basking in the rays, it’s not too hot or too cold, but tepid—just how I like it. The curtains of my imagination close and the lights in the theater of my mind begin to flicker. “Hush now,” my thoughts say quietly to one another, “it’s about to start.” And the symphony of San Francisco begins to play.
Instruments of all kinds converge on me as I orchestrate the first movement. Cars roll through the four-way stop at the intersection below. Breaks squeaking like violins out of key. Stereos blasting with varying degrees of bass. As pedestrians approach the corner, bits and pieces of their phone conversations fade in like oboes humming a tune, just to fade out again as they depart, and continue on their journey elsewhere. The palm trees and giant ficuses lining the sidewalks, brush back and forth with the steady breeze until a gush of wind wisps through the windows, whistling a tune and possibly striking the symbol of a hanging chime nearby. Horns blow off in the distance, perhaps an ambulance or fire truck weaving through traffic, or both. The city is alive, and like an orchestra, everyone and everything has it’s part to play.
From my perch on high I string together stories of my own creation to attribute to my fellow city dwellers within view. I take a moment to marvel at how quickly the parsley and basil growing in my windowsill have gone from seedling to stalk in just a few months. Amazing considering the San Francisco weather can be brutal on such delicate species.
I grab the latest issue of Wine Spectator or Bon Appetite—whichever is within reach—and I kick up my feet in hopes of taking a nap before I make it to the bottom of the first page of whatever article I can’t seem to finish.
And the only thing missing is the perfect beverage. Something refreshing. Something that makes me think of summer or spring, no matter how cold it might get when the sun sets in a few hours. Like a glass of ice-cold water after a long workout at the gym, I want it to quench my thirst and yet assist in getting me to that decompressed state of zen we yearn for on the weekends but so rarely get before they end.
Well here’s that cocktail. A combination of lemon, fresh basil, pisco and tropical pineapple come together in this bubbly soda with a kick.
Lemon Basil Pisco Refresher
This cocktail is perfect for a Sunday afternoon of reading in the window or for a group of friends hanging out at the beach. It’s light, easy to drink, and packed full of that perfect balance between bitter, zesty and sweet. If you’re going to make it in a large batch, just make sure to leave the soda water and bitters out of the punch bowl, and instruct your guests to serve themselves, adding a dash or two of bitters and however much seltzer they want.
For the pineapple syrup:
- 32 oz (1 liter) of pineapple juice
- 2 cups of sugar
- ½ cup amaretto liqueur
For the lemon juice infused with basil
- 6-10 lemons (medium to large)
- ¼ cup of fresh Italian basil
Both the pineapple syrup and the lemon-basil juice can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use them.
For the pineapple syrup, bring the pineapple juice, sugar, and amaretto liqueur to a boil over high heat in a medium or large pot on the stovetop. Reduce the liquid by half or until it’s the viscosity of a thickened syrup (should take about 45-60 mins). Let the pineapple syrup cool and store until you’re ready to use.
For the lemon-basil juice, squeeze the juice from your lemons into a small pot over medium-high heat. Tear the basil leaves in half and add them to the pot. Stir gently and bring the juice to a rolling boil and then turn off the heat. Strain the juice to remove the pieces of basil and let cool.
Assembling the Lemon Basil Pisco Refresher:
- 2 shots Pisco liqueur
- 1 shot pineapple syrup (see recipe for pineapple syrup above)
- 1 shot lemon juice infused with basil
- 2-3 dashes of bitters
- splash of club soda
Pour the pisco liqueur, pineapple syrup, and basil-infused lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake until combined.
Pour the contents of the shaker over a fresh glass of ice cubes, and fill the glass with sparkling water. Stir once or twice with a spoon and then add the dashes of bitters on the top. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and a citrus peel (lemon or lime) and serve.
Share you’re favorite story with the always talked about San Francisco weather in the comments below.