Just One Plant: Oleo Saccharum

Citrus peels combined with sugar create an elegantly sweet addition to your favorite cocktails.

Could basil be the secret ingredient to spice up cocktail hour? The ubiquitous herb lends a unique earthiness to food and drinks unlike anything else. One of the easiest ways to punch up your drinks is by making an oleo saccharum, which is essentially a sugar oil that works in place of a simple syrup. An oleo saccharum can be made overnight—the oil is extracted from lemon and basil simply by covering it with sugar. A standard simple syrup, however, requires a burner and waiting around for a boil. Just give your oleo saccharum a vigorous shake from time to time and you'll get a delightfully pungent syrup in return. Take note: You won't need to use as much in cocktails as you would a simple syrup!

The Ingredients

1 Bunch Basil

Granulated Sugar

2-3 Large Lemons

Mason Jar with Lid

Peeler or Paring Knife

The Process

Remove peels from 2 lemons with a peeler or knife, making sure to get just the skin above the pith (the white part) to avoid any bitter notes. Pluck the leaves from one bunch of basil (about 1 cup packed) and cut into ribbons by stacking leaves, rolling, and cutting.

Place 1⁄4-cup sugar into the mason jar, add lemon peels, and basil. Seal jar, shake to cover contents with sugar, and leave it on your countertop. Give the jar a slight swirl now and then, and by the next morning, the oil should be separate. Stir remaining contents to dissolve remaining sugar particles and run through a strainer to remove solids.

To speed up the process, you can gently press the contents of the jar with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon. This process should produce 1⁄4-cup of oleo and should be refrigerated after each use. Chilled, it will keep for up to 4 weeks.