In Elite Daily’s I Tried series, we put celebrities’ favorite products, recipes, and routines to the test to show you what living like your fave star is really like. In this piece, Dan Levy’s lemon basil margarita recipe proves to be a standout.
Since hitting it big with Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy has become a leading tastemaker in Hollywood. He’s earned praise for his sense of style, from his red carpet looks to his eyewear trends. And it’s not just his fashion choices that give him clout: His next project, HBO Max’s The Big Brunch, highlights his chops as an authority on food and drinks, which he honed during his rise to fame as one of the hosts on The Great Canadian Baking Show. (If you haven’t watched TGCBS, please do. It’s the GBBO-Schitt’s Creek crossover you never knew you needed.)
All this to say, when I heard Levy had partnered with Cointreau to share his favorite cocktails for this summer, I was intrigued. I’m a big fan of classic and frozen margaritas, from traditional to mango, and this seemed like the perfect (and easy!) cocktail for a late summer party.
Levy shared a cucumber jalapeño recipe with Today, pointing out that the recipe was simple enough that one could easily multiply and make large batches. He also has another fave marg recipe with Cointreau, a lemon basil number, so I decided to make that one to see how it compared.
The ingredients list is so short that I was immediately intrigued. I was especially excited because I already had most of the necessary supplies in the house or outside in my garden.
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1.5 oz. blanco tequila
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 6 basil leaves
But this is where the trouble started. I may love to drink margaritas, but I never make them. That part is always left to my foodie spouse, Mr. Bundel, so I showed him what I was up to for his expert advice. He took one look at the recipe and said, “Wait, that’s it? No agave? No fresh OJ? Not even a splash of seltzer? No salt rim?!”
Ever the responsible person, I asked Google if Mr. Bundel was right. And he was — most marg recipes call for four ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur (like Cointreau), lime juice, and agave or simple syrup. (Also, almost all the recipes tell you to dip the rim of the glass in lime juice and salt.) I did find one recipe that suggested fresh OJ, but most said to keep it simple: Four ingredients. Levy’s recipe is technically five, subbing in lemon and basil instead of agave.
It would be fine, I decided, though I do love a salt rim. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as stated.
Making a margarita isn’t hard. I started by adding the part where you salt the glass rim, even though the recipe doesn’t call for it. (It’s one of my favorite parts!) Then I put the Cointreau and the tequila in the mixing glass.
I followed with the lemon and lime juice, combined in the little measuring jigger, then added the basil directly to the mixing glass.
I then added ice to the other half of the mixing cups, popped the two together, and shook hard — enough so the ice beat up the basil, a bit like muddling. (After I shook, Mr. Bundel took it away and shook it harder. *Throws up hands in loving defeat.*)
After breaking the two cups apart, he strained the liquid into one of our old-fashioned glasses. I added a citrus wedge from our container of dehydrated fruit and a basil sprig. Ta-da?
I took a sip of the lemon basil margarita and was at once violently reminded of what it must be like to drink a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (which The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says “is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”). In other words, I was hit full force by a lemon-lime-basil flavor and an alcoholic kick straight to the bloodstream. I plopped the glass down on the counter at the first sip and backed up several steps. I nearly backed out of the kitchen, saved only by my cat, who was displeased at having a human stumble backward into him.
Mr. Bundel then took a sip, and his eyes popped. Then he went to the fridge and returned with the seltzer and simple syrup; a tiny splash of the former and a dollop of the latter went in the glass. Then he tasted it again, this time stirring with the wedge before putting it back on the glass. He then nodded and offered it to me to taste again.
Those two extra ingredients made all the difference. The agave took the punch of the lemon-lime down a notch and turned it into a smooth sip, while the seltzer splash helped the instant alcohol buzz feel more like a gentle wave and less like being smacked across the forehead. My margarita had gone from Holy Highway to Headache to Hello Hammock Time.
Levy’s lemon basil margarita is a perfect summer cocktail for those who like their drinks intense and robust. And listen: I’m a professional writer. Drinking alcohol isn’t technically a requirement, but from Oscar Wilde to Dorothy Parker to Hunter S. Thompson, some believe it comes with the territory. If you need to lower the intensity of the alcohol by adding even some sweetness and seltzer, do it — there’s no shame.
Bonus points if you pair it with a delicious dinner — no folding in the cheese required.