The many health benefits of lemongrass has been known by Asians for more than a millennia. Citral, the primary chemical component in lemongrass, has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. For instance, lemongrass tea can act as a diuretic and is highly effective in flushing toxins and waste out of the body; improving the function of many different organs including the liver, spleen and kidneys.
Lemongrass is a favorite ingredient in Asian soups, stir-fry and salads. Think Thai tom yum gai or nam sod. But as mentioned above, lemongrass can also be a delightful ingredient in tea as well as cocktails. It is in this vein that I offer up a mojito with Asian influences.
2 stalks lemongrass
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
2 limes, sliced into 8 lime wedges
Large handful fresh Thai basil (also called pepper basil)
8 ounces white rum
Club soda, as required to top up
Ice, to serve
Lemongrass stalks, trimmed (optional, to use as stir sticks)
First, make a batch of simple syrup and lemongrass. Chop the lemongrass stalks into 1-inch pieces, and bruise using the back side of a chef knife or a mortar and pestle. Place them in a pot with 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup infuse for about 2 hours, or allow to cool and refrigerate for 24 hours. Before use, strain the syrup, pressing down on the lemongrass stalks to extract maximum flavor. Chill until ready to use. (once the syrup is strained, it will also keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks).
To build each cocktail, arrange 4 cocktail glasses on a work surface and place 1/2 teaspoon sugar in each glass. Add 1 lime slice into each glass along with a handful of Thai basil, and muddle together. Pour in 2 ounces rum and 2 ounces lemongrass syrup. Top with ice and club soda. If you desire a non-alcoholic drink, omit the rum and add a little extra lemongrass syrup. Stir and serve. Yield 4 cocktails.