Well, it has been a while since our last weekly cocktail post. But the weeks keep coming, so we may as well get things restarted. After all, spring is the season of renewal. And we have just the drink to re-kick things off, our own version of a true classic, the Mint Julep.
Sadly (and frankly) way too many Mint Juleps suck. Yes, we said it, and we mean it. S.U.C.K. And those are strong words here at the farm, but all too true for this drink. Most Juleps are just fussy, boozy and minty. Some use bad bourbon or even fake mint (ack!). Or worse, feature flecks of mint all over the drink…and in your teeth. And many hide a bad drink in silly frosted silver cups with crushed ice and a straw. Ugh.
But, very happily, a return to the basics is all the Julep needs to return to greatness. The key step is to look at history and realize that the Julep is simply a forerunner of the basic cocktail. The first cocktail was just spirits, bitters, sugar (unrefined, but we will get to that later) and water. A good Julep is almost the same recipe, but with mint substituting for the bitters…..Hmmm….
So let’s start with the Bourbon. We recently fell in love with Four Roses Yellow Label for cocktails (and their premium Bourbons for sipping) and suggest you use it for an excellent Julep. First, the Yellow Label has a mash bill with a good slug of rye, so you get the expected oak and toffee notes, but with some real spice and a very clean finish. Good stuff. Second, the Yellow Label is about $20, one of the best values on the shelf.
On to sugar. This is easy. When the Julep was invented there was no such thing as refined sugar. We use a rich simple syrup of turbinado or muscovado sugar. These “raw” sugars add deep, smooth molasses notes to the drink that take the heat from the alcohol. Much better than plain white sugar.
Next, let’s look at mint. A touch of mint is lovely. A lot of mint tends to overwhelm everything, and if mishandled, is terribly bitter. We just lightly shake/stir in mint leaves in the shaker and then discard. You get a light mint flavor with no bitter edges. As for aroma, we lightly slap a mint sprig for garnish. Trust us, you get plenty of solid mint aromas throughout the drink.
Finally, we come to the water. Here we suggest you get rid of the silly crushed ice and go to large cubes. This is a simple drink, why be fussy? And lastly, we add about 3/4 of an ounce of sparkling water. Why? Well, it does lighten and lengthen the drink, but the combination of the spritz of the fizzy water and mint dazzle the taste buds in a way that plain water won’t….and it may bring you back for another round.
The Putney Farm Mint Julep:
- 2 oz. Bourbon (Four Roses Yellow Label)
- 1/2 oz. rich simple syrup (using “raw” sugar)
- 3/4 oz. sparkling water
- 2 mint sprigs
- Pluck the mint leaves from one of the sprigs, discarding any stems. Add the mint leaves, bourbon, simple syrup and ice to a cocktail shaker. Gently stir / shake (swirl) until well chilled.
- Fill a lowball glass with ice. Strain the bourbon mixture into the glass. Top with the sparkling water and then give the drink a good stir.
- Lightly slap the remaining mint sprig and add to the Julep for garnish. Serve.