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Monday, August 8, 2011

When Life Hands You Lychees

Recently I was the very lucky recipient of a small bumper crop of fresh lychees.  These rosy red orbs were leftover from my recent participation on behalf of Melissa's Produce Company at Project Sake.  This benefit   for the Little Tokyo Service Center, held at the magnificent Vibiana (the first cathedral in Los Angeles before a newer, slightly larger one was built), is another reason why I have a great job.  I get to do good and I get to eat really good too.

Succulent Lychees courtesy of Melissa's Produce Co.
One of the tastiest of all fruits, Lychees are fantastic just peel-and-eat style, but because there were enough to munch on and also make something with, I googled "lychee recipes" and I couldn't resist a simple one for lychee infused vodka.  With vodka always on hand for infusion opportunities, and an only 5-day waiting period, this recipe looked like, and in fact turned out to be a winner.

To take this to the next level, because it's summer cocktail time and with further inspiration from Project Sake, I created this Lychee Martini.  With sake in place of vermouth, and fresh basil sugar syrup for sweetness, this is a drink for all seasons, but especially for right now.  声援  (Cheers in Japanese.)

Lychees Infusing Vodka
Lychee Infused Vodka
2 lbs. fresh lychees
6 cups vodka

Peel and pit lychees.  Place in glass jar, add 6 cups of vodka, put on the lid, and let stand in a cool, dark place at least 5 days.  Drain infused vodka through cheesecloth, and store in  the refrigerator.

Amazingly delicious Lychee Martini on latest mosaic creation
Sake To Me Lychee Martini
2 oz. lychee infused vodka
1 oz. sake
1 oz. basil sugar syrup

Place the liquids in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake.  Strain into pretty glass, garnish with "pickled" lychee & basil flower.

Basil Sugar Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 basil leaves

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat on medium until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture has come to a slow boil.  Take the saucepan off the heat, add the basil leaves, and let stand for about an hour.  Remove the basil.  Store syrup in the refrigerator.  Right now this is my go-to sweetener for iced tea too.  And try this with other herbs - let your imagination lead the way.

For more on fresh lychees go to


  1. So delighted to find your wonderful post! I keep checking your blog, looking forward to your next creations.
    I hardly ever drink cocktails but your lychee martini sounds absolutely wonderful and I love the photo of it on the beautiful mosaic; did you make the mosaic too?

    Great to know that the basil sugar syrup is so good for iced tea; I've really been looking for good iced tea ideas.

    What does the "pickled" lychee taste like?

  2. Faye, thanks for your comments. Yes, I made the mosaic - one of several for my succulent garden. The lychee vodka and basil syrup are the perfect match. Other herbs, and maybe lavendar or vanilla or orange blossom water would be great flavors for the iced tea too. The lychees were "pickled" in the vodka so they are almost too potent to eat but make a great garnish.