This Basil Cocktail is summer’s most refreshing drink. Fresh basil gets muddled with sugar for a hint of sweetness, then shaken with vodka and lime juice and topped with a bit of bubbly tonic water.

Green hued basil cocktails garnished with lemon on a wicker tray.

Every year, I plant a ton of herbs in my garden and then promptly forget to actually use them in the kitchen. I’ve even been known to buy a package of thyme at the store when I have thyme growing in the garden.

I don’t know what sort of block is in my brain about using all of these beautiful herbs, but if nothing else, I will at least try to incorporate them into cocktails this year.

The mint can be muddled into tequila mojitos or used as a garnish for Kentucky mules, and the rosemary can be steeped for rosemary simple syrup in order to make rosemary cocktails.

But nothing grows faster or larger in my garden than basil. While I can sprinkle big leaves of it onto goat cheese fritters and into caprese salad all summer long, there will always still be more. Even after you harvest it, it grows back so quickly.

This fresh basil cocktail recipe made with muddled basil, vodka, lime juice and tonic water is light, crisp and refreshing. You’ll want to make it all summer long!

Bright green hued basil cocktail garnished with a round of lemon.

The ingredients for this basil cocktail are easy to find:

  • fresh basil – the fresher, the better! You will need about 10 medium basil leaves to muddle into each basil vodka cocktail. Pluck a few extra leaves for garnish, too. Tons of basil in your garden? Try making homemade pesto for my salmon pesto pasta.
  • sugar – regular white, granulated sugar is what we use to muddle the basil and sweeten the basil smash cocktail. I suggest 2 teaspoons of sugar in each cocktail, but if you prefer a less sweet drink, you can start with 1 teaspoon and taste to see how you like it.
  • lime – freshly squeezed lime juice will go into this basil cocktail recipe, and you can garnish the drink with rounds or wedges of lime, as well. Don’t worry if you use all your limes here. If you’re hankering for a marg later in the week, you can always make lemon margaritas.
  • vodka – I prefer a nicer vodka like Tito’s or Grey Goose for these cocktails with basil. I suggest 1-1/2 ounces of vodka per cocktail, but you can use 2 ounces if you’d like a stronger drink.
  • tonic water – this will top the basil drink off with some nice carbonation, making it that much more refreshing. You can also use club soda or sparkling water, like San Pellegrino.
A wooden muddler crushing fresh herbs and sugar in a tall glass.

You’ll need a few pieces of bartending equipment to make cocktails with basil:

Hopefully, you have a cocktail shaker on hand for this basil vodka cocktail! You’ll be using this to muddle the basil and sugar in, and to shake the cocktail with ice once the vodka and lime juice are added.

If you do not have a cocktail shaker, no worries. Muddle the basil in a large, sturdy glass, and then simply stir the basil drink well instead of shaking once you add the vodka, lime juice and ice.

It’s ideal if your cocktail shaker set has a strainer, because it’s best to strain this cocktail after shaking (just to get out any large pieces of basil; small pieces are OK).

If you don’t have a cocktail specific strainer, any fine mesh strainer that you have will work for this basil cocktail recipe (also always handy to have on hand for straining the custard for blueberry cheesecake ice cream).

Muddling is simply gently smashing an herb or a fruit (or even cucumber, like in my White Claw cocktails) to release it’s flavor before making a cocktail with it.

You can buy a bartending muddler (typically made of wood or a combination of metal and rubber or plastic) or simply use the handle of a wooden spoon to make these cocktails with basil.

If you’re going to be making basil smash cocktails on a regular basis, I suggest investing in a jigger so that you can measure the liquid ingredients accurately.

If you don’t have a jigger, you can use measuring spoons. Start by memorizing that 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons and you’re good to go.

A cocktail strainer pouring a bright green liquid over ice cubes in a short glass.

How to make a basil smash cocktail:

Start this basil cocktail recipe by adding the basil leaves and sugar to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler, gently crush and grind the basil until no large pieces remain and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should have a dark green, soupy appearance.

Add the vodka, lime juice and a handful of ice cubes to the shaker. Put the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.

Fill a double old fashioned glass with fresh ice, and then strain the vodka mixture into the glass. Top the glass with tonic water.

Garnish the basil drink with whole basil leaves and a wedge or wheel of lime. Serve immediately.

Bright green cocktails with basil on a wicker gray with limes and fresh basil garnishing the tray.

Can I double this or make an even larger batch?

This basil vodka cocktail recipe doubles well in one cocktail shaker. Make it as written below, but simply double the amount of each ingredient.

To make a larger batch of this basil drink, use a sturdy glass pitcher and multiply the recipe by as many servings as you need. Muddle the basil and sugar in the bottom of the pitcher. Then, fill the pitcher with ice, add the vodka and lime, top with tonic water, and give a gentle stir.

If you love a large batch cocktail, my pineapple sangria may also be right up your alley.

Basil vodka cocktails on a shadowy countertop.

Do I have to use vodka for this basil drink?

I love vodka for this basil smash cocktail because it has a neutral flavor that won’t overwhelm the floral fragrance of the basil.

But, if you’re not a fan of vodka, you’re still in luck. I’ve tested this exact basil cocktail recipe using gin, and it’s delicious that way as well. In fact, the floral flavor of the basil echos the floral flavor of the gin, which is perfect!

Substitute an equal amount of gin for the vodka called for in the basil cocktail below.

If you’re a gin lover, I also have recipes for a rosemary gin cocktail and a grapefruit vodka cocktail with rosemary that you may enjoy.

If brandy is more your speed, be sure to try my brandy old fasioned. It’s not a basil drink, but it’s still a great cocktail.

Can I use something else besides white sugar?

I used granulated sugar for this basil cocktail because the grit from the sugar helps to break down the basil leaves. But, there are other options.

If you have simple syrup on hand, you can use that for this basil drink. Start with 1/4 ounce (1-1/2 teaspons) per drink, and add more to taste if needed.

You can also use agave nectar (also so good in agave lemonade) for these cocktails with basil. Again, start with 1/4 ounce per drink, and add more to taste if needed.

A green hued basil vodka cocktail garnished with a lemon wheel and fresh basil sprig.

Serve some snacks with this basil vodka cocktail!

Some of my favorite savory snacks to serve with a round of basil drinks are Greek chicken meatballs, caramelized onion dip and spicy potato chips.

My prosciutto sandwich recipe has an herby mayo that uses rosemary and thyme, if you have those in your garden, too!

If you’re more in the mood for charcuterie or a big party platter to serve with this basil vodka cocktail, try my jarcuterie or one of 36 charcuterie board ideas.

More great cocktail recipes:

These are the drinks you want in hand with a few salty snacks and good company.

Green hued basil cocktails garnished with lemon on a wicker tray.

The Best Basil Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This Basil Cocktail is summer's most refreshing drink. Fresh basil gets muddled with sugar for a hint of sweetness, then shaken with vodka and lime juice and topped with a bit of bubbly tonic water.

Ingredients

  • 10 medium basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh basil and lime wheel, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place basil leaves and sugar in cocktail shaker and muddle until sugar is dissolved and no large pieces of basil remain. The mixture should have a dark green, soupy appearance.
  2. Add vodka, lime juice and a handful of ice cubes to shaker. Cover and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
  3. Fill a double old fashioned glass with ice and strain vodka mixture into glass. Top glass with tonic water. Garnish with basil and lime wheel and serve immediately.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 11mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 0gSugar: 16gProtein: 0g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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