The Drink: “Pinch of Basil”
The Location: Firefly, 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW, (202) 861-1310
The Price: $12
The Buzz: On a warm May night, with thunderstorms threatening, I take a walk to Dupont Circle’s Firefly craving a spring cocktail. The first section of the drink menu, labeled “Specialty Cocktails,” offers one drink for each vice: vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, sparkling, and tequila. At the bottom it reads, “Drinks by Blackbird.” The moniker belongs to William Earls, Firefly’s restaurant/bar manager as well as cocktail guru, as he prefers to be called. The Rose Petal—-a basic gin and tonic spruced up with Citadelle gin, ice cubes made of rose water and tonic, and garnished with rose petals—-sounds like just what I’m looking for. However, I decide against it because of the Citadelle. Don’t get me wrong, Citadelle, with its distinct sweetness, is one of my favorite gins. But I have Citadelle at home. In fact, my neighborhood liquor store stocks it because of me. The dim restaurant, with its warm yellow lights and giant tree-trunk centerpiece, has quickly transported me to a different season. The bourbon cocktail seems to fit the ambience. Pinch of Basil is an autumnal combination of Basil Hayden and Pommeau de Normandie with a splash of apple juice (an ingredient they don’t advertise on the menu). Swimming in the rocks glass are a slice of apple and several melon balls, which have been soaked in simple syrup. Despite the name, there’s not a touch of basil in the drink. Basil Hayden is a small-batch bourbon that’s heavy on the rye; Pommeau de Normandie is a liquor that’s part Calvados (apple brandy) and part apple juice. The result is shockingly smooth bourbon—-no burn, abrupt finish—-with the subtle sweetness of apples. It’s nothing girly, and it won’t make you pucker, but even a sorority girl could sip it easily. And if your sweet tooth isn’t satisfied, it’s worth digging through the ice cubes with your fingers to fish out those sugary pieces of fruit. As for the seasonal, and titular, disconnect, the drink will soon be garnished with a sprig of basil from the chef’s organic garden.