• Weekly Cocktail #61: The Putney Farm Mint Julep

    julep7Well, 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.

    julepSadly (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.

    julep2But, 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….

    julep3So 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.

    julep4On 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.

    julep5 Continue reading

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  • Bonus Cocktail: Reagan Meets Gorbachev

    Reagan Meets Gorbachev cocktail.

    NOTE: Sorry for the strange name, we will explain more below. But please read on, this cocktail is basically a Mint Julep variant that combines bourbon, vodka, simple syrup, mint and crowberry liqueur (substitute blackberry liqueur or crème de Cassis).

    Meanwhile, one of the unexpected (but positive) surprises of cocktail blogging is our friends’ willingness to bring us fun, and sometimes rare, spirits to play with. Booze is always welcome here at the farm. And last week Carolyn’s Dad, and my good friend, Bill brought us two liqueurs from Reykjavík Distillery in Reykjavík Iceland (thanks Bill!). The first liqueur was a very tasty blueberry cordial. But the second was a crowberry liqueur, and we had never heard of crowberries. So we decided almost immediately that a crowberry cocktail was in order. Challenges are good, it means we get to experiment.

    East-meets-west ingredients…

    And after a few minutes of internet research we had at least some information on crowberries. Crowberries are the fruit of a dwarf evergreen shrub found in temperate and sub-arctic regions- basically they grow where it gets cold. Not surprisingly, they are a common food of the Sami in Finland and are also widely found in Iceland. Crowberries have lots of vitamin C and antioxidants, but are often lightly flavored. Their flavor is often described as watery blueberry with some tannic or black currant notes. But while the fresh fruit might be watery, fermentation and distillation concentrate flavors. So we were hopeful the liqueur would be tasty.

    A little fun with antique julep cups…

    Happily, the crowberry liqueur is quite good and tastes somewhat like a sweet mix of blueberries, blackberries and a little currant. So now that we had a good flavor to work with, we needed the cocktail. And since the liqueur is from Reykjavík, we wanted a theme based on the city. But the only thing we know about Reykjavík is that it was the location of the 1980’s meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev where they negotiated some of the IBT, but got hung up on SDI and the delayed approval of SALT II and then zzzzzzzzzzzz….. Let’s just say it was where Reagan and Gorbachev realized that both sides were open to broad concessions and they developed a personal relationship. This led to some good things; Soviet collapse, walls coming down, Maseratis in Moscow, etc….

    Adding dark fruit liqueur to Mint Juleps is a winner. The vodka helps the fruit show in the drink.

    As for the cocktail, we wanted to include both American and Russian spirits with the crowberry liqueur. Bourbon and vodka were the obvious choices. And as for the julep variant, there are many good blackberry juleps out there, so using crowberries isn’t a stretch. The vodka is not only Russian, but it lightens the bourbon without diluting the alcohol and helps the mint and crowberries shine through. Sometimes we think the bourbon overwhelms in Mint Juleps, but the vodka brings a sense of, ummm…detente (ugh, eye-roll).

    Overall this is a lighter, fruitier version of a Mint Julep that still has plenty of flavor. And you can substitute any dark fruit liqueur for the crowberry. So while we don’t expect many people to have crowberry liqueur, give this version of the Mint Julep a try, it may lead to good things.

    Reagan Meets Gorbachev:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. bourbon
    • 1 oz. vodka
    • 1/2 oz. crowberry liqueur (or substitute dark fruit liqueur like blackberry or crème de Cassis)
    • 1/3 oz. Demerara or simple syrup
    • 6 mint leaves
    • Sprig of mint, for garnish
    • Crushed ice

    Assemble:

    1. Place the mint and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and lightly muddle. Then add the bourbon, vodka, crowberry liqueur and ice to the shaker. Shake thoroughly and strain into a lowball glass or Julep cup filled with crushed ice.
    2. Stir and top with extra crushed ice, if needed. Garnish with the mint sprig. Serve.