Friday, April 12, 2013

Celebrate spring with a sip of New Orleans: Susan Spicer's basil-infused Cotillion cocktail

One evening several years ago, a neighbor’s daughter stopped by our house and rang the bell. I went to the kitchen door and saw her standing, well dressed and seemingly murmuring to herself, out on our front porch. This struck me as curious on several levels, but mostly because no one uses our front door.

When I unlocked it and teased her for ringing the bell, I saw her take a deep breath and extend her hand.

“Good evening,” she said with a polite brio that made me think she could probably make a better impression at a job interview than some of my co-workers. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Okay, so ... nice, but weird. This sort of thing never happened where I grew up in New Jersey. When I rang a neighbor’s doorbell they’d pretend they weren’t home to avoid buying chocolate bars or oranges or whatever we were selling that year to finance a band exchange trip.
After getting the low-down from her mother, I learned that this was an essential phase of cotillion training, a sort of pre-coming out grooming that also included knowing the difference between a salad fork and one used to poke at – but probably not really eat – a calorie-laden dessert.

For me, cotillion brings to mind something else entirely.  I think of the cocktail, a satisfying sip infused with fresh muddled basil. It’s a drink that reminds you just nice it is that winter is over and spring has finally arrived – even if your car is covered with sticky yellow pine pollen.
While typically made with bourbon and rum, we prefer the tequila variation Susan Spicer includes in her fabulous book, Crescent City Cooking. Published on the same date as our 24th anniversary in 2007, it was a gift from my husband as a remembrance of our 20th anniversary trip to New Orleans, where we were so dazzled by Spicer’s Bayona restaurant that we made a second reservation before we paid our first bill.

Spicer’s recipe is posted on the Amazon link to her book – you must also try her amazing Jalapeno Pork Pork Roast, which makes great sandwiches – so I feel safe including it here in an effort to spread some seasonal cheer among friends who participate in #LetsLunch, a global food community that posts themed recipes each month. This month’s choice is “spring break.”
If you don’t have basil growing in your garden yet, get some from the market or a garden center. Instead of buying a bunch of limp, packaged basil for $2.19, I bought a hearty plant for $2.99, which will keep us in basil through summer – despite the fact that we pinched off a nice sprig to make cocktails tonight.

Susan Spicer, Crescent City Cooking

Makes one cocktail (but plan on having several)

5–6 fresh basil leaves, plus one for garnish
1 sugar cube
1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1½ ounces Patron or other silver tequila
5 ounces orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

Using a wooden spoon or "muddler," mash the basil with the sugar cube and Cointreau in a tall Collins glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the tequila and orange juice. Stir with a long spoon or straw and garnish with a basil leaf.


  1. What a gorgeous cocktail! And a good reminder that I'd like to figure out a good solution for growing a few herbs inside my apartment this season...

  2. Such a well-mannered cocktail! I'm looking forward to the abundance of basil this summer!

  3. This sounds lovely! Thanks for the introduction to both types of Cotillion, both new to me.