Summer Sips: The Muskoka Gimlet

The Gimlet is an old, traditional drink. It can be said that it has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance recently. Just ask local bartenders! It was once the choice of British sailors in the 19th century. The original cocktail was easier on the mixers, simply one part gin and one part Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial. It was advertised as a beverage that would help to prevent scurvy for the British naval fleet. The lime juice itself was a daily prescription.

Borage is a must in your garden, it draws enthusiastic bees. Beware, they begin to look like small tress and grow like crazy. Their blue flowerettes are a gorgeous blue. They have a taste sweet cucumber.

As we can all use a little less refined white sugar in our diet, it’s recommended that you use honey instead of sugar, a change from the original syrup recipe. Not only that, the honey brings out the floral notes of the borage. If you’re growing basil, I it will grow best if sown under glass in a peat pot then planted out in late spring/early summer. Muddled basil encourages its freshness and affords the anise flavor.

Basil and borage are both high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Basil is especially high in several vitamins and minerals, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Add these floral and herbal ingredients in to a cocktail shaker with some gin and fresh lime juice, et voila… you have what might earn the name elixir. The combination of herbaceous gin and tangy lime take on an elegant sweetness from the floral syrup. It’s a blast of a gentle nature…

This concoction of basil and borage

A reward for my wildflower forage

With gin and soda

Sipping under the pagoda

In the morning, replacing my porridge

—David Bruce Patterson

Recipe: The Muskoka Gimlet


3/4 ounce of gin (the small cup of a jigger) Recommend Legendary Oddity Gin, Muskoka Breweries (The balance of this drink is relatively complex, so if you want a bit more kick, 1 oz. of gin should be fine, but NO MORE!! Note that Rose Gin, by Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers is an interesting option, making the drink sweeter and adding to the bouquet.)

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp Borage and Basil Syrup

4-6 basil leaves

splash of club soda (low-sodium recommended)

Borage Basil Simple Syrup:

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cups borage blossoms

1/3 cup torn basil leaves


Add the basil leaves, lime juice, and syrup to the cocktail shaker

Using a muddler, pummel the basil leaves in the shaker

Add the gin to the shaker and fill halfway with ice

Top the shaker and shake vigorously for about 1 minute

Pour into a glass with ice, strainer optional

Top with a splash of club soda

For the Borage Basil Simple Syrup:

Combine 1/4 cup honey with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often

Combine with basil and borage blossoms in a heat-proof bowl and allow to sit for at least 1 hour.

Makes 1/2 cup

Note: Muddling helps to release the flavors of the fresh ingredients so that they bind with the alcohol better. However, one must take care not to over-muddle when working with delicate herbs such as mint and basil. This can impart a bitter taste in the drink. Instead, use a light hand and tap them a few times with the muddler. Use a heavier hand with rosemary, lime, and other firmer ingredients. Muddlers come in wood, bamboo, stone, or metal.

*Cocktail recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s Basil Gimlet.

*Simple syrup recipe adapted from Miche Bacher’s Borage and Basil Simple Syrup recipe in her book, Cooking with Flowers.

About the Author: David Bruce Patterson is a Muskoka author, poet, and cocktail conoisseur. He finds it a stimulating challenge, rotating between novel writing, and poetry. “They meet somewhere in the middle,” he says. “The unknown genre.” David has completed his novel, Square Wheels, and is now working on Dorothy Parker and the Epigram Mysteries: Murder at Land’s End. David has also written more than 3000 poems and hopes to have an anthology out soon!

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