It’s getting warm out there (and sticky if you are in the Northeast like I am) and when the heat gauge rises, theSpeakista’s mind turns to thoughts of warm weather drinks. What better way to re-ignite our project form last year than by doing a week of drinks; in particular one of my favorite heat bracers … the julep.
While I love me a Daiquiri, a Mai Tai or an ice cold beer with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of sea salt on a hot day, in some respects, there is nothing better than a julep to cool you down. A mint julep (the original of course!) is a classic – comprised of a heavy dose of spirit (originally bourbon or other whiskey), a touch of sweetener and muddled mint, the drink is built over a copious amount of crushed ice and is by all accounts meant to be sipped over a long period of time. Today, any crafty bartender may “build as a julep” just about anything so long as it essentially follows the above path of combing a spirit(s), sweetener(s) and mint or other herb (maybe, or maybe not) over crushed ice. As with most drink canvasses we encounter, a classic such as this affords the drink creating artist so much by way of creativity.
Our goal over the next week is to do a “julep” a day using completely different ingredients to create unique sipping experiences. To my knowledge, of the seven (or maybe more) recipes we intend to profile, all but two are original recipes that have been conjured up by the fertile mind of yours truly. While I claim these to be “original” they are like most of my drink creating experiments, born out of my imbibing experiences. The recipes used in this series may well exist in exact or near exact formulations already and if so please let us know so that we can give credit where credit is due. One final comment – the next seven days is in no way intended to be an end-all-be-all to juleps (how can it be?); we want to see what a little bottle grabbing and recipe refining can yield. If you’ve got an interesting take on a julep or have sampled one at a bar by all means post a comment below and let us all read?
Enough with the preamble, let’s start drinking.
For our first recipe we serve up a herbaceous twist on the classic. Developed for this series of posts, I offered it up several weeks back on a TDN with no fanfare. Oh well … genius is often not recognized in its own time. The concept was surprisingly simple to develop — I absolutely love the taste of fresh basil and wanted very much to create a julep that featured it. By hook or crook we settled on gin as the perfect spirit medium. A bold gin such as the Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin was selected as it provided the base, the backbone of flavor and alcohol intensity required to support the structure but the critical steps lay ahead. Using an Old Tom gin along side the strong London style gin not only kicked up the herbal notes of the mix but layered in a great touch of sweetness without gumming up the works and while the two gins and basil paired off quite well with one another the mixture seemed like it wasn’t quite finished. The missing link was found in the form of a touch of St. Germain — an added layer of sweetness with new depth of floral and botanical notes created a drink that was balanced and in my mind quite tasty. The drink finishes with a strong aroma of basil and fruit bitters that garnish the ice on top.
Don’t be scared by the high dose of spirits used in this recipe — the drink is designed to be sipped over an extended period of time and you’ll find that the drink mellows as it matures in the glass.
Recipe created (he thinks) by theSpeakista
• 1 1/2 oz Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin
• 1 1/2 oz Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s was used)
• 1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
• 3 leaves of fresh basil
Garnish: sprigs of fresh basil and grapefruit and orange bitters
Glass: julep glass or old fashioned glass
Assembly: Take the basil leaves and “pop” them in your hands (method: place the basil leaves in your palm facing up; bring the other hand down on top of the leaves/hand in a single clapping motion) and then add to the serving glass. Build the remaining ingredients in the glass as a julep — add the ingredients to the glass and fill the glass half way with crushed ice and using your bar-spoon, swizzle the mixture for a minute or so until the glass begins to frost. Top the glass with more crushed ice, garnish with the basil and add a few drops of each of the bitters on top of the ice. Insert straw if so desired and sip, sip away.
Next up for Julep Jubilee, high proof bourbon and high proof rum make love in a glass …