Readers of our first issue may have deduced something about the cocktail preferences at Middlewest: We like them simple. When we were developing The Breakfast Club (the lone cocktail recipe in Middlewest No. 1), we specifically made it with three ingredients, and that number–give or take a few–continues to feel right.
The One + Only is a little more complicated than The Breakfast Club–it requires making a flavored simple syrup–but it clocks in at four components, each of which can be varied to suit whatever’s on hand. These components are: 1. An herb syrup. 2. Fruit. 3. Lime juice. 4. Booze. It is, we think, the only cocktail recipe you need for summer. Which is why we called it the One + Only.
Here’s how it works:
1. Make the herb syrup. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water with 1 cup sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the syrup starts to bubble, turn off the heat and throw in a big handful of any herb, rinsed. Cover, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer the syrup to the fridge and chill until you’re ready to use it.
2. Make the cocktail base. Strain the herb syrup and discard the herbs. In a blender–or with an immersion blender–puree 1 cup herb syrup with 1 cup ripe, chopped fruit (blueberries can be left whole; stone fruits like peaches and plums should be peeled and pitted). Transfer the puree to a pitcher and stir in 3/4 cup lime juice.
3. Shake your cocktail (or not). You can finish this drink in countless ways. For a non-alcoholic drink, put 1/3 cup of the base in a glass and top with sparkling water. For a Champagnelike cocktail, do the same with sparkling wine. For a gin, vodka or tequila drink, add one cup of your chosen spirit to the pitcher and stir (this will yield about seven 4-ounce drinks and ten 3-ounce drinks). Pour over ice in lowball glasses, or shake them with ice in a shaker and use cocktail glasses. Either way, garnish with more of the herb.
A few of the many possible variations: strawberry-rosemary-gin (pictured); strawberry-rosemary-tequila; blueberry-mint-vodka; peach-thyme-tequila; raspberry-lavender-Champagne.