Sometimes, you really can drink your troubles away. Or at least some of them. For chef Dean Neff, of PinPoint restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina, trouble came with an over-delivery of an unfamiliar ingredient. “Last year, we had buckets of local holy basil,” says the chef, who builds his menus from local farmers’ bounty. Sweet, subtly medicinal holy basil—or tulsi, a sacred herb in India—isn’t the variety you’d use for a pesto or a pasta sauce. “It smelled like bubblegum, and we weren’t quite sure what to do with it,” he says. At the same time, the former chef de cuisine at Rhubarb in Asheville was facing down flats of in-season muscadines and scuppernongs. So he and his fiancée, pastry chef Lydia Clopton, came up with a sensibly Southern solution to the seasonal abundance: Add bourbon. Musky and herbal, the cocktail they created is a local favorite that’s on the menu again this year. “You get that kind-of-bubblegum flavor with the sweet grape,” Neff says. “When you taste the drink, it’s a flavor you’re familiar with, but you’re also like, ‘What is that?’”
Neff’s home cook–friendly version of the recipe substitutes holy basil tea for the fresh herb. You can find the tea at your local Whole Foods or health food store. While you’re there, pick up some muscadines, too—once a farmer’s market oddity, they’re now widely available in Southern grocery stories in early fall. If you prefer not to blend and strain the grapes yourself, you can even buy bottled muscadine juice.