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Sparkling basil-limeade

I had the most amazing drink, "Basil-lime elixir" at Gingergrass in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago.  The food was terrific, but I was bowled over by this drink, which combines some of my favorite flavors--basil, lime, and mint--that I immediately started to create something like it.  This is the result.  I consider it still a work in progress, but already a pretty amazing drink.  It takes a lot of basil, and there is an overnight step, so planning ahead is a must.

A lot of basil, at least 4 ounces leaves and stems

A little mint, one or two stalks of spearmint or a teaspoon or two dried

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

4-6 limes

Sparkling water, 1-2 liters, chilled

Day One

Rinse and chop the basil and mint coarsely, stems and all.  

Boil the water and sugar together briefly.  I microwaved them in a pyrex dish but in a pot on the stove should also do fine.

Stir the basil and mint into the simple syrup.  Let them sit out at room temperature until the syrup mix is lukewarm.

Puree the combined mixture in a blender *very carefully* to avoid a splattering sticky sickly green mess.

Optional:  shave the zest from several limes, and add the zest to the puree. 

Steep the herb/syrup puree overnight in the refrigerator.  

Day two

Strain the puree.  [Note:  The herb-infused syrup should keep for a few days or a week in the refrigerator, if you will not use it all at once.  If you plan to save some, wait to add the lime juice until you're ready to drink it.]

Juice the limes and add to the syrup, starting with about 1/2 cup of juice, until you like the sour/sweet balance.  Dilute to taste with sparkling water, starting with about 3 parts sparkling water to concentrate.

Serve over ice with a sprig of basil or mint.

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