One of the things that I absolutely LOVED about working in a restaurant is that I was constantly inspired by the people I met and worked with every day. I whole-hardheartedly believe that collaboration is always better than a solo act. My heart has always been to inspire others and – equally as important – keep myself open to be inspired.

So with that in mind, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Shannon Limberger. I met Shannon while working at the now closed 9 Bakery + Lounge in downtown Wilmington. It was my most favorite food destination in our little historic city even before working there.

One of the first cocktails I had after starting at 9 Bakery and Lounge was one of her creations. I’ve had it just a few times since then. Seriously… maybe only 3 (or 43) times.

Matthew and I met with her before the restaurant opened for dinner service to talk about some of her favorite cocktails and get the low down on how we can all make them at home.

Shannon told me that she is inspired by seasonal ingredients (especially fruit and herbs) when she is creating a new drink. I LOVE that approach. It’s not just about the liqueur – even though it’s a LOT about the liqueur.

Kidding, mom.

Here is what you need:

Place the basil leaves in a pint glass with the blackberries.

Muddle the berries and basil together. Wear a cute dress while you do this step. It makes the drink better.

Add some ice to the glass.

Pour in the bourbon. Do it… let yourself go! Make it as strong as you like. No judgement here, people!

Add a squeeze of lemon.

Add a splash or two of lemonade.

Shake it up! Shake it real good!

Strain that beautiful thing.

Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of basil. And that’s it! It’s so perfect for this time of year. Fresh, bright and STRONG.

You guys need to trust me on this. Make one (or 43) immediately and then come back here and tell me how fantastic it is. I’ll wait on you.

All photos: Matthew Ray