I am about to share with you one of my absolute favorite cocktails of all time – the California Cooler. I stumbled across the basis for this recipe on Popsugar.com a few years ago and my summertime drinking has never quite been the same.  This cocktail combines some of my favorite flavors into one amazing drink – basil, grapefruit, lemon, and champagne (among others)!  Basil is such an interesting herb in cocktails that is both sweet and slightly savory at the same time.  It lends a subtle minty, yet peppery, edge to the drink that is deliciously noticeable, but I have found that very few people can discern the exact source.  I also love that this recipe make two cocktails instead of just one, which means that I don’t have to do any extra work to make one for Rob too!

The muddled grapes and basil give this cocktail a special edge that is irresistible!

The basis for my California Cooler was Katie Sweeney’s Muddled Grape Vodka Cocktail, which was actually adapted from Guy Fieri’s Sonoma Cooler recipe. Both recipes are AMAZING as written, but I made one small tweak that I find gives this one bit more complexity and emphasizes the herbal notes provided by the basil.  The tweak is that I used St Germain Elderflower Liqueur in place of the simple or honey syrups called for in the other recipes.  Feel free to try all three variations and tell me which one is your favorite – I know you will love them all, just like I do!

Happy Friday!


I used Hangar 1 in this recipe, but feel free to use any quality vodka.

California Cooler

Makes 2 drinks

Recipe adapted from Katie Sweeney’s Muddled Grape Vodka Cocktail and Guy Fieri’s Sonoma Cooler



  • 8 large seedless green grapes
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 ounces St Germain Elderflower Liqueur (add a ½ ounce more if you want a sweeter drink)
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine
  • Garnish: 2 grapes and one basil leaf on a cocktail skewer
  • Glass: 2 Large wine goblets
  • Special equipment: a muddler, a cocktail shaker, and a cocktail strainer



  • In an empty cocktail shaker, vigorously muddle 8 grapes and 4 basil leaves. Add the vodka, the grapefruit and lemon juices, and the St Germain. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds.
  • Remove the top of your shaker and place the cocktail strainer on top. (The spring type cocktail strainer helps to keep the solids in the glass without impeding your pour like the teeny tiny holes in your shaker do.) Evenly divide the liquid between two ice filled wine goblets.
  • Top off the goblets with sparkling wine and garnish with a skewer of 2 grapes and a fresh basil leaf.  Enjoy!
I love the California Cooler! Share one with a friend today!