Shrimp burgers and herbed gin and tonics for Labor Day

Jeanmarie Brownson
Chicago Tribune

We enjoy burgers all summer — their charred goodness never ceases to satisfy. For Labor Day weekend, we’ll splurge on a departure from the usual beef: crispy shrimp burgers with a spicy homemade mayonnaise.

These indulgent burgers are inspired by a midday feast traveling in the UK with friends. After a morning exploring Abbey Road, we ventured to the Holborn Dining Room in London’s Rosewood Hotel. The gorgeous marble, polished wood and red-accented brasserie is well known for our favorite summer cocktail — the gin and tonic.

These are not the sloppy Tanqueray and tonics of our youth. The Holborn’s Gin Bar features more than 400 boutique gins and 27 tonic waters.

It took us a long time to select a gin and a tonic combination. In the end, a lavender and pink grapefruit G&T swept us away. Converted, we spent the rest of the trip collecting gins to transport home. Several versions of homemade syrups now line the shelf of my fridge. My husband planted lavender just for cocktails.

The Holborn shrimp burger likewise haunts our memories. Versions at local restaurants pale in comparison. Finally, I ventured into the kitchen to work on recreating it. Turns out, raw shrimp, some of it chopped and some nearly pureed, yield the juicy, nearly bouncy burger reminiscent of Holborn’s signature sandwich. A hot, oily griddle, not a grill, creates a perfectly crusty exterior.

Grapefruit and Lavender Gin and Tonic

I love Fever-Tree tonic water here — especially the Mediterranean flavor. I use St. Germain elderflower liqueur when I am not in the mood to make the simple syrup. Organic sugar makes a light amber colored syrup.

3/4 cup sugar

Small sprigs fresh thyme

Small sprigs fresh lavender

Ice cubes

Thin bias-cut slices unpeeled cucumber

Thin wedge-shaped slices fresh pink grapefruit

Pink grapefruit juice, preferably freshly squeezed


Chilled tonic water

For the syrup, heat sugar and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 2 or 3 thyme and lavender sprigs and let cool. Then remove the herbs and decant the syrup into a small bottle. Refrigerate, covered, up to several weeks. Makes about 1 cup.

For each drink, fill a large goblet half full with ice. Put 1 cucumber slice, 1 grapefruit slice and a sprig each of lavender and mint in each goblet. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon cooled syrup, 1/4 cup gin and 1/2 cup tonic water. Stir and serve.

Nutrition information per drink: 228 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 25 g carbohydrates, 22 g sugar, 0 g protein, 19 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

Shrimp Burgers

Crispy shrimp burgers with a spicy homemade mayonnaise are inspired by a midday feast while traveling in London. They make an indulgent departure from your usual burger for Labor Day.

If buying uncooked shrimp in the shell, purchase about 2 pounds. When they are peeled and deveined, you’ll have the right amount for six burgers. Brioche buns taste great with these burgers — their hint of sweetness and rich texture work beautifully with the shrimp and spicy sauce.

Jalapeno mayonnaise

1 medium-large jalapeno

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

Pinch salt


1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined uncooked shrimp

1/2 small onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic

2 loosely packed cups brioche or white bread cubes

1 egg white

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

6 brioche burger buns, split

12 very thin slices ripe tomato

1 1/2 cups fresh watercress or baby spinach leaves

Safflower, sunflower or expeller-pressed canola oil

For mayonnaise, put jalapeno into a small, heavy skillet set over medium heat. Cook, turning jalapeno, until charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. When cool, remove stem. Cut in half and scrape out the seeds. Chop flesh very finely.

Put mayonnaise into a small bowl; stir in jalapeno, chives, parsley, lime zest and salt. Refrigerate covered up to several days. Serve at room temperature.

For burgers, put about half of the shrimp into a food processor; pulse several times to chop coarsely. Transfer to a large bowl.

There’s no need to clean the food processor. Turn it on and drop onion and garlic into it while running. Process to finely chop. Add remaining shrimp and bread; pulse until shrimp is finely chopped. Add egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times until mixture is a coarse puree.

Add shrimp puree mixture to the bowl with the chopped shrimp. Fold in the chives and parsley. Divide mixture into 6 even mounds. Refrigerate up to a few hours if desired.

Split the buns and toast them lightly in a toaster oven or under the broiler (watch carefully). Have the mayonnaise, tomato slices and watercress near the cooking surface.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a thin film of oil. Once the oil is shimmering hot, add a shrimp mixture mound. Use a spatula to press the mound into a 1-inch-thick patty. Repeat with remaining shrimp mounds. Cook burgers over medium heat until the bottoms are beautifully golden, about 6 minutes. Flip carefully. Cook until golden on the second side, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Spread the insides of the buns generously with the mayonnaise. Put a pile of watercress on the bottom bun; top it with 2 tomato slices. Add a shrimp burger patty and the top bun. Repeat and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 590 calories, 28 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 240 mg cholesterol, 53 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 31 g protein, 1,177 mg sodium, 4 g fiber