If making a mojito is a labor of love, then Alba bartender Shannon Emerson is one of the hardest working cocktail ninjas around. Her blueberry basil mojito, a seasonal drink she has been serving at the East Village restaurant for a couple months, is the perfect answer to a hot summer day.
A classic mojito is typically made with five ingredients: white rum, sugar, lime, sparkling water or soda water and mint leaves. Emerson’s blueberry basil version kicks it up a notch with seasonal berries and the introduction of a new, fresh herb flavor.
The process is involved, but has a huge payoff. Emerson starts by making a blueberry reduction with fresh blueberries and water, which she boils on a hot stove until they begin to break down. Then she strains them, adds sugar, and boils the concoction again before straining it all a second time.
Next, she prepares a basil-infused simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water with a few basil leaves. Then she strains it to remove the basil leaves that have steeped in the syrup.
To prepare the cocktail, she puts six mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail glass, squeezes in the juice from a whole lime and muddles them together. Then, she adds about half an ounce of the basil-infused simple syrup. On top of that, she adds about an ounce and a half of the blueberry reduction. Then she fills the glass with ice, adds about an ounce and a half of Bacardi light rum and shakes vigorously with a shaker on top. To finish she tops the glass with a splash of soda water, a few mint leaves and a few plump blueberries.
The result is a surprisingly light and refreshing cocktail. The drink isn’t syrupy, as its inky color suggests. Instead, the blueberries complement the lime’s tartness and the basil’s freshness.
Emerson creates deliciously unique cocktails for Alba on a regular basis. She’s currently working on a watermelon sipper.
Blueberry basil mojito
Find it: Alba, 524 E. Sixth St.
Cost: $9.50, or $5 during happy hour, 5-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday