Clink! Strawberry Basil Sparklers.

Cheers! Salud! Prost! Kampai! Pura vida! Togtooy!

No matter what words are used (my favorite is the last one, from Mongolia!), just about every country and culture has a word that is gleefully expressed while clinking glasses in merriment. Did you know that clinking glasses was once a way to slosh poison into the other person’s glass, and the tradition evolved into a way for the host to prove the safety of the drink he’d poured to a guest? Clink. See? I’m not trying to poison you. The clink was also thought to scare away evil spirits or “knock out the ghosts!” Now that the ghosts are gone, we can drink. Since France created the magic, bubbly, effervescent wine we call champagne in the early 1700s, it’s come to be a symbol of the good life. A way to denote a special occasion. A mandatory clink for successes and milestones. Champagne is celebration in a glass. Obviously, as I note with surprise that a whole year of blogging is under my belt, only the bubbly will do.

But we’ll get to that.

A year ago, we’d been living in our new home just 2 months, and our tiny terror (Cholula) was half a year old. John had asked me to be his wife just a few months prior. I was shuffling around the house, grumpy and pouting about an April Fool’s Day snowstorm- and was given a glimpse at a different perspective. That moment of realization that I had nothing to be unhappy about and everything to be grateful for was the impetus for The Usual Bliss. And so I started to write.

A year later, I’ve written 340 posts. I’ve written about awesome vacations, experiments in the kitchen, exploring my new town. I’ve written about struggles and personal triumphs that brought me to this present. I’ve shared memories from my past and dreams for my future.

When I wrote my first blog post, I’m not sure what I expected- I was truly writing just for me, to keep my head in check and intentionally live in optimism, regardless of circumstance. Somehow, at least 246 people have decided to follow along on my bliss-seeking journey, taking a gander at The Usual Bliss 27,810 times. Readers from 20 different countries have stopped by to see what I’m rambling about, and 4,243 of them took the time to leave a comment. These numbers are just stats, but they are mind-boggling to me.

I’ve mentioned this before, and I now smile as I see other new bloggers realize this: the community in Blog Land is shocking and unexpected. I’ve been inspired daily by other bloggers’ experiences, honesty, and beautiful writing. I’ve “met” people that I now call friends.  Some of them have asked me to grace their own blogs with my wordswhat an honor! I don’t write about every fight with my husband, every tear, or every new batch of pregnancy tests I purchase: this is a blog, not a diary. But I’ve surprised myself with the depth of feeling that I put into my writing, and I’ve been humbled by the support and encouragement from readers. It makes me happy that I decided to put my words out there, one year ago. Thank you for making this project worthwhile and rewarding for me.

Most popular posts? My sort-of fairy tale. This camping trip. These veggie lasagna rolls (thanks to Jorie’s pin!). People are also keeping an eye on my Life List (no pressure). My personal favorite posts? John’s harem. My own “other” love affair. My husband and Jesus Christ. And by far, this post about reality, where I re-clarify my intention with The Usual Bliss:

“I started writing this blog to remind myself to keep everything in perspective. To think positively when I’m headed in the other direction. To be grateful for the little thing and even more grateful for the big things. To recognize special times in my life. To find the bright side…Life is good. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.”

Sounds like a reason to celebrate to me.

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How about a Strawberry Basil Sparkler? I adore drinks made with earthy herbal flavors. I found this recipe by searching for cocktails made with champagne (mmmmm), and it happened to have similar ingredients to a martini I enjoyed (immensely and twice) in Durango recently.

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I decided to use Cava for this recipe, since it was a mixed drink. The first thing to do was make a simple syrup. I’ve learned that a key way to flavor a cocktail is with an infused sugar syrup- I make a gingery-rosemary one for my favorite summer lemonade. This drink simmers sugar, water, fresh basil, and strawberries for about 10 minutes.

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Be sure to watch it so it doesn’t bubble over and burn on the stove and fill your kitchen with smoke. It could happen.

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After 10 minutes, I removed the little pot of herby-sweet syrupy berries from the heat and let it sit on the stove to cool down. Once it had reached room temperature, I strained the strawberries and basil out and had this glorious, deep pink syrup left over. I may or may not have dunked a spoon into it. It may or may not have been scrumptious.

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Time to make the sparkler! In addition to the bubbles and the magic simple syrup, this drink includes vodka. A squeeze of lemon, a quick stir, and a cute little berry garnish- it’s sippin’ time.

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I love the feeling of the bubbles on my nose when I sip champagne. This drink is delicious- it’s not too sweet, despite the sugary syrup (thank you, vodka). The strawberry flavor is obvious, but the addition of the basil is divine. It was a fitting drink to celebrate my blogiversary!

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By the way, it dumped snow again on April Fool’s Day.

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In fact, the rainstorm I woke up to is changing to snow as I type. But my perspective is a little different this year. I live a happy life filled with love. I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Here’s to another year of BLISS. Togtooy! Clink.

Strawberry Basil Sparkler (from What’s Gabby Cooking)

For the strawberry basil syrup, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 10 strawberries
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil

For the Sparkler, you’ll need:

  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ½ ounce strawberry basil syrup
  • 2 ounces champagne, prosecco, or cava (bubbles!)
  • Squeeze of lemon

Combine the water, sugar, strawberries, and basil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let the sugar dissolve and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Once the mixture has cooled, strain the liquid into a container and discard the strawberries and basil.

In a cocktail glass, combine the vodka, strawberry basil syrup, champagne, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and serve immediately. CHEERS.

16 replies »

    • You should try it, Emily! The basil isn’t overpowering but brings a really yummy flavor to the sweet strawberry syrup. My friend poured a smidge into her vodka/lemonade the other night. I think she’s onto something. Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  1. Yay to your one year! It’s crazy that our blogaversaries are so close :). Thank you for all your write about and your stunning pictures and I am so happy I now get to call you my friend!! Xo

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