Sometimes in my head, I imagine a great thing that I'm sure I can do in the real world and it's definitely going to work out, no problem! And sometimes these imaginings do work out pretty well, and sometimes they are huge disasters. I did this last week. I had been turning around the idea of a preserved lemon cocktail in my head for a while and it sounded great. I was a bit worried about saltiness, but I figured I would soak the lemons and reduce the salt. Then I would turn them into a syrup that was sweet and just faintly salty and with that great, perfumed lemon-but-also-not-quite-lemon preserved lemon flavour. My dream cocktail was amazing. I would add basil and make an excellent, uniquely sweet and savoury, fragrant, sophisticated summer lemonade cocktail delight.
This was hubris my friends. I sliced the preserved lemon into thin wedges, rinsed and soaked it to reduce the salt, and made a simple syrup, totally certain of my true cocktail genius. And then I tasted the revoltingly salty (Duh, right?) yet somehow too sweet syrup. I added lemon juice and more sugar, to try to balance out or at least distract from the off-putting qualities of my concoction. I continued to throw good sugar after bad for quite a while, never really improving things. I wound up with a super thick, still gross, lemon sludge. I put it in the fridge, thinking I could find a way to save it. Then I stared at it every time I opened the fridge for 3 days until I had to face reality and throw it away.
I had already bought basil though, and I wasn't going to let this gross lemon-tastrophy ruin my basil cocktail dreams. For the next round, I went with a surefire flavour combo, with no daring acrobatics involved: basil, lime and gin. Sweet, tart, summery. All the childish, summer-time fun of limeade combined with all the fun of gin! For the grown-up kiddo in you.
For now I will keep my preserved lemons for rubbing on chickens and turning into salad dressings. Until another wave of hubris hits me and I turn them into some kind of horrifying meringue.