Last Saturday was pretty much my favourite night of the year. The night of Eurovision.
For the uninitiated, Eurovision is a Europe-wide singing contest that is full of amazing hair, polyester costumes and the very best music that Europe has to offer. Which is, normally, not very good at all.
It has become somewhat of a tradition for my university friends to gather and celebrate this joyous occasion. For some reason, we rarely celebrate birthdays or anything else really but on a weekend at the end of May, we all come together for a cocktail-fuelled evening is hilarity.
More than ever this year, I realised that my enjoyment of the night isn’t about the music (thankfully perhaps) or about the five minutes that we spend getting up to speed with everyone’s news. It’s the four hours that we spend shouting over each other, laughing hysterically and generally regressing a decade or so.
This year my party-planning was supremely effective and I think this was mainly down to the nap-time that I built into the afternoon. Oh and not getting drunk before people arrived. I think that may be my top party-planning tip ever.
I also planned a menu that I could prepare during the day and then just shove into the oven when people arrived so I had maximum time assess all of my acts on our chosen criteria (level of nudity, number of key changes, impressive use of pyrotechnics, amount of facial hair). My menu also involved lots of carbs which came in handy when one of my friends started drinking straight Cointreau at a fairly early stage in the proceedings.
I always like to kick off parties like this with a cocktail before it becomes a bit of a free for all at the bar. My preference is always for a cocktail in a jug that I can make in advance and keep in the fridge until needed. Then I just whip it out and I look like the most domestic of goddesses.
When I used to live with a couple of my university friends, one of our signature cocktails was vanilla vodka and sprite. I decided to make a slightly more sophisticated version of this with some fresh lemonade and a hint of basil. My friends were sceptical (I think mainly because they’ve had my cocktails before) but everyone agreed that it was just perfect. Light and fresh enough to be refreshing on what was a fairly hot day but with a little vodka kick at the end that reminded you that you were at a party.
I think the vanilla is a nice touch but you could easily use straight vodka. Or just skip the vodka all together and use four cups of water in making the lemonade.
To make the syrup, place the basil leaves, sugar, water and lemon peel in a small saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then take the pan off the heat and chill for at least an hour.
After an hour, sieve the contents into a jug, pressing on the solids to make sure you extract all the moisture.
To make the lemonade, add the water, lemon juice and vodka. Serve with ice and fresh basil leaves.