Chad and I belong to a boathouse in the neighborhood — the Inwood Canoe Club — which has had a big impact on the way we experience New York. First of all, it’s given us the opportunity to get outdoors whenever we want, since we can walk down the street, grab a kayak and get on the water. Secondly, it’s introduced us to a lot of great people. Since we roamed around so much before coming to New York, it makes me inordinately happy to run into somebody I know on the street; it makes me feel like I have roots in the community. This happens fairly often because of paddling, and that means a lot to me.
A couple of summers ago the club had a cocktail contest. I had never invented a cocktail before but I thought it would be interesting to try to come up with something plant-y and outdoorsy, something that reflected the experience of being on the Hudson River. For a couple of weeks I brought home all kinds of strange ingredients and we came up with numerous disgusting concoctions. I remember a bargain-basement elderflower liqueur that was especially repugnant, with a strong bubblegum flavor. Also, my attempts to use coconut water as a mixer — I thought it would be fun to have a cocktail that actually rehydrates you — were a total fail.
Then, somehow, we landed on a sparkling vodka limeade with fresh basil. We tried adding a little Jaegermeister, the German digestif, to bring out the herb-y side. And it was pretty good! We’d actually created something we could imagine making and drinking at home. As a bonus, the greeny-brown color reminded me of our beloved brackish Hudson.
We won the contest and the drink was dubbed the Turtletini, after the club mascot. Over the course of another two summers, I’ve nailed down the ratios so that I can consistently produce batches of the cocktail for up to 100 people without major variations in quality. Here is the recipe.
Turtletinis for a Crowd
Makes 26 5-ounce drinks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice, about 8 limes total (for large batches I will also use some Nellie and Joe’s bottled Key Lime juice)
1 cup vodka
1/12 cup Jaegermeister (1.5 TB/1.5 jiggers)
A bunch of fresh basil
Seltzer or club soda
lime wedges (optional)
1. Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water and heating until the sugar has thoroughly dissolved. Allow it to cool for a few minutes
2. Combine the simple syrup, lime juice, vodka and Jaegermeister.
3. Muddle (gently crush and tear) the basil leaves to release the flavor.
4. Combine one part lime juice mixture with four parts seltzer. A cup measure marked with ounces is good for this, or you can eyeball it.
5. Fill a cup with ice. Add some basil. Pour the drink over it. Add a lime slice if you’d like. Enjoy!
For smaller batches, the basic idea is to mix 1 part lime juice, 1 part vodka, simple syrup to taste, and a splash of jaeger. Then add about four times as much seltzer as mix, and drop in some basil.
Lastly, if you need a lime squeezer, I recommend the Chef’n Lime Juicer. It has a gear mechanism that really helps you get the juice out with less effort, and it’s a joy to use.