The xxxxx a great summer cocktail. Photo by me.

The Ludwig, a great summer cocktail. Photo by Tobin Ludwig. Hand model, Tobin Ludwig.

We’ve taken up part-time residence in Manhattan and discovered that our downstairs neighbor is Tobin Ludwig, one of the partners in Hella Bitters. We were having cocktails in his apartment when he passed around some exquisite cantaloupe. In season, it was juicy and sweet; chewing, Tobin said, “This would go great in a cocktail.”

And the challenge was on. He would follow the local and seasonal in creating an elegant summer cocktail using cantaloupe and the basil that is in full flourish, infusing reposado tequila, made from the highly vegetal cactus plant, with this herbaceous leaf.

“Basil is a great cocktail ingredient,” Tobin says, “because it’s so versatile. It can go savory or sweet.”

To infuse spirits with herbs, combine torn leaves with the spirit of your choice for 48 hours and strain. For basil tequila, Tobin says to start with Espolón or other affordable reposado. Add about one torn basil leaf per ounce. Combine in a Mason jar and shake once before you go to bed and once again when you wake, then repeat the next day. Taste until you get the desired flavor—the aged tequila and the basil make for a unique, funky, herbaceous and slightly savory base spirit.

To make cantaloupe juice, simply puree fresh cantaloupe in a blender and strain through cloth or a fine-mesh strainer.

The final ingredient is Barenjager, a honey liqueur made by Jagermeister, but you can use honey cut with an equal part water.

Serve in a coupe and garnish with lime. A truly seasonal and refreshing cocktail.

The Ludwig

  • 1.5 ounces basil-infused reposado tequila
  • 0.75 ounce cantaloupe juice
  • 0.5 ounce Barenjager (or 1/2 tablespoon honey mixed with 1/2 tablespoon water)
  • 0.5 ounce lime juice
  • Thin lime circle, for garnish
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake or stir.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with lime.


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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


8 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Ludwig”

  • allen

    Bacon infusion with basil catnelope. Bacon for bitters goddamit.
    We coo de lah.
    Cooo Dey mutha fuckin lah!

  • Sarah

    I had a cocktail at the B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore called the “El Oso” and it had Barenjager – the first time for me. It may have been one of the best cocktails I have ever had. This is the ingredient list: Partida Anejo, Bärenjäger, Luxardo Maraschino, Bitter Truth “Jerry Thomas” Bitters.

  • Lee

    Sounds great, but I reckon trade some of the lime for a splash of an interesting bitters?

  • Allen

    This sounds fantastic, sober post, no bacon needed.
    Silver, or blanco tequila would be my preference for infusion, I like the pure taste of tequila, not the barrel it was aged in, and love mezcal, which is great with a pear purée – not sure how basil would fit in.

    Also love that little rooster glass, very coo de lah.


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