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"When a cocktail both makes you happy and feels healthy, you've got a winner," says Burtka.
Pro Tip: Most herbs are great for the syrup, but avoid rosemary, which can taste medicinal.
For a mocktail version, increase the amount of celery to 15 stalks and blend it with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Make the cocktail as instructed, omitting the gin and increasing the amount of celery juice added to the cocktail shaker to 6 tablespoons.
Adapted from Life Is A Party by David Burtka. Copyright © 2019 by David Burtka. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ¾ cup water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme bunch and sage leaves, using a spoon to press down on the herbs to make sure they are completely covered by the sugar syrup. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to let the flavors infuse.
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the celery and the remaining ¾ cup water and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to push down on the celery pulp to extract as much juice as possible (you should end up with about 1 ½ cups celery juice). (The celery juice can be made the day before and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.)
Rinse the strainer, set over a second medium bowl, and strain the cooled herb syrup, using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to press down on the herbs to extract as much syrup as possible. Discard the herbs.
To assemble each cocktail, in a cocktail shaker, combine 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) herb syrup, 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) gin, ¼ cup (2 ounces) celery juice, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Add enough ice to fill the cocktail shaker (about 4 cubes), cover tightly, and shake vigorously for a few seconds until the mixture is very cold.
Hold a mesh strainer over the top of the strainer on the shaker top and double-strain the cocktail in a lowball glass filled with crushed ice. Repeat for each cocktail. Add a splash of tonic water to each glass, garnish with a thyme sprig, and serve immediately. (Any leftover herb syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)
Always drink responsibly.