A classic gimlet is 2.5 ounces gin and a half-ounce of preserved lime juice (like Rose’s), shaken and served on ice with a lime wedge garnish. Incredibly straight forward.
Modern palates prefer fresh lime and a little sweetener too and the basil can be incorporated by muddling or simply letting the ice beat out the basil flavor while shaking the drink, but the resulting cocktail doesn’t look so great after all that carnage. My preference is the sock-full-of-nickels approach, doing plenty of damage without the unsightly marks. Make a simple syrup (cook equal parts sugar and water until sugar dissolves), add fresh, bruised basil right off the stove, and let it macerate for a day before thoroughly straining out the vegetal bits.
Altering this syrup is where you can make your drink stand out. Here are a few of my favorite basil syrup variations:
1. Purple basil makes pink syrup.
2. Substitute light brown sugar or honey for (some of) the white sugar.
3. Thai basil or lemon basil can be substituted to build a more complex flavor.
4. To avoid watering down the flavor, make syrup with gin instead of water (essentially, making a flavorful, low-alcohol liqueur).