Mint Julep. Photo by CHRIS MCKECHNIE
The earliest record of a Julep dates back to 1803, when an Englishman working as tutor on a Virginia plantation referred to “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” The basic recipe, consisting of mint, sugar, water and shaved ice, was originally finished with regular and peach brandies. By the late 1830s, only the wealthy were still using brandy, while the masses turned to whiskey. Sometime after the Civil War, brandy disappeared from the mix entirely, and the bourbon-based Mint Julep became universal.
Three things are essential to creating the perfect Julep: glassware, fresh mint and a fine bourbon. Sterling silver Julep cups are preferred for their superior frosting ability; unfortunately, they can be hard to find and a bit pricy. A tall 14-ounce glass will perform just fine; thinner glass facilitates the frosting process. As for the mint, only fresh, young, tender leaves will do. Then there’s the whiskey. Although a case can be made for using different types of whiskey, bourbon is traditionally preferred.
2 oz. bourbon whiskey
1 oz. simple syrup
12–14 fresh spearmint leaves
fresh mint for garnish
Place 12-14 mint leaves in a julep cup (or tall glass), add simple syrup and gently muddle with a wooden muddler—just enough to release the oils without tearing or bruising the mint. Fill with crushed ice, add bourbon and stir to mix. Top the cup with crushed ice, stir until a frost forms on the outside of the cup. Garnish with a bonnet of mint, and add a straw to serve. Hint: You may want to serve linen napkins with your juleps to keep your guests from feeling the chill.
Another fantastic way to show off America’s spirit is in a Cobbler. Comprised of spirits and/or port, sherry or wine mixed with fresh fruits, liqueurs, sugar or fruit syrups and served over crushed ice, Cobblers were a very popular style of mixed drink in the nineteenth century. Use a fine whiskey such as Blanton’s, the first ever single-barrel bourbon and one of the category’s best.
2 oz Blanton’s single-barrel bourbon
½ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 oz. fresh lemon sour
2 pineapple sticks (without skin)
4 Bing cherries, pitted
2 orange slices
In a mixing glass muddle 1 orange slice, 1 pineapple stick and 2 Bing cherries; fill with ice and add Blanton’s, Maraschino and fresh lemon sour. Shake until well blended, double-strain into a crushed ice filled double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with remaining fruits.