To continue our ode to the summer strawberry season, and in celebration of the upcoming long weekend, we present you with a cocktail. Naturally!

There’s a fun neighborhood bar here in Houston called The Volcano, and in addition to its rockin’ patio and we’re-not-sure-if-it’s-ironic-or-not-Polynesian décor, The Volcano features delicious cocktails like frozen screwdrivers, Mt. Lychees, and strawberry-basil margaritas.

Strawberry-basil margaritas?  Oh yes oh yes oh yes.

Perhaps you think the strawberry-basil combination sounds like a strange one for a cocktail.  Believe me, I was a skeptic at first myself.  Normally I am not a fan of super-fruity drinks, and I really didn’t know how I felt about a strong herb like basil in my cocktail.  But now, I am a convert.  The grassy, clean flavor of the basil cuts right through what could be an overly-sweet strawberry drink.  Throw in some fresh lime juice & Cointreau, then welcome to happy hour!

My interpretation of The Volcano’s drink involves a strawberry simple-syrup, which infuses strong strawberry flavor and a gorgeous pink color.  You can easily make the syrup ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready for cocktails; this is also pitcher-friendly, so it’s great for a crowd.

If you’re not crazy about tequila, go ahead and swap in vodka–viola, a strawberry-basil martini!

straw-basil rita up close

No matter what you decide to drink this Memorial Day weekend, I would like to propose a two-part toast:

One = We are headed to Dallas on Sunday for the wedding of my friend Shining.  He and I were classmates at Rice, now he’s about to be a doctor, and his future wife Tricia is an amazing pianist/engineer/foodie.  I’m so excited about their wedding not only because it’s going to be a mini-reunion with some of my favorite people, but also because the happy couple really are a happy couple.  They are so great together, bring out the best in each other, & their love is infectious.  Congratulations in advance, you two!  A toast in your honor–I’m certain there will be many more come Sunday.

Two = I’ve been doing my best to remind my students and myself just *why* we are off school on Monday.  Grateful as we all are for the three-day weekend, I know it’s much more important to be grateful to the men and women whose service we memorialize and to those whose service continues still.  It’s a reminder which really resonates this year with our school community, as our beloved Middle School Dean Tony is training in D.C. for his upcoming deployment to Iraq.  We honor you, Tony, and look forward to having you back with us in the spring.  Cheers & Godspeed!

makes 2 generous drinks
tequila macerating basil
2 oz. tequila (1 oz = a shot)

1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup*

juice of 2 limes

splash of Cointreau (substitute any other orange-flavored liquor)

2 T fresh basil, chopped roughly

extra strawberries & basil for garnish

To mix the drinks, place the basil in the bottom of a cocktail shaker (or large cup).  Pour in tequila.  Use the back of a spoon (or a fancy muddler, if you have one) to mash the basil leaves into the tequila, so as to release the flavor.  Fill the shaker with ice, then add strawberry syrup, lime juice, Cointreau.  Cover and shake, then strain out into glasses.  Garnish with sliced strawberries and a chiffonade of basil.

To make the strawberry simple syrup:

strawberry simple syrup one 1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4-5 strawberries, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the strawberries look exhausted.  Cool the syrup, then strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing the strawberries firmly to extract all liquid.  Store in a bottle or jar in the fridge–will keep for up to 2 months.



  1. I love the combination of strawberry basil! I just made a sorbet of it. But adding tequila…I like the way you think 🙂

  2. I think we’re going to try these this weekend!

  3. I’ve only been to Volcano once…but next time I must remember to order this one!

  4. We tried these yesterday – they were good! We actually blended them together instead of muddling & liked the way the flavors all mixed together. You should try it that way sometime.

    • bluejeangourmet

      Tricia! I’m so glad they turned out, and I’m glad to hear you blended! I’ve been meaning to try it that way, and now I’ll have to…

  5. Made these last night – delicious! I went with the martini route, but wow – so tasty and refreshing on a hot day. I also ate the sugar-laden strawberries after they cooled . . . 🙂

  6. I made these drinks last weekend and really liked the combo of sweet strawberries and fresh basil. I found the margaritas a little too sweet for my taste, so I cut it with soda water and extra lime juice, which added a nice fizz.

    Just wanted to mention that I really love this website! I’ve been spending this summer teaching myself to cook. I’m in college and cooking was never a priority… but I’ve decided to be a big girl and learn to make some real food! I’ve loved all of your recipes that I’ve tried so far- keep it up!

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