Monday, August 8, 2011

Imbibe Mondays: How to Make the Mint Julep

Ode to the Julep:

"Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep – the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.

The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips infant leaf into the same stream that makes The Bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, and the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. Like a woman’s heart it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside gurgling brooks that make music in the fields, it lives and thrives. When the bluegrass begins to shoot its gentle sprays towards the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demands the wedding.

How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar till it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush your mint within it with a spoon – crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away – it is the sacrifice. Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to cool, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed; no stirring allowed- just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find the taste and odor at one draft.

Then when it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant cold and sweet – it is seductive. No maidens kiss is tenderer or more refreshing, no maidens touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream-it is a dream itself. No other land can give you so much sweet solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey." - Joshua Soule Smith

Mint Julep Recipe (1 Serving):

3 sprigs fresh mint
2-3 teaspoons simple syrup
3 ounces (roughly) bourbon

*There are a lot of weird recipes for the Mint Julep out there - most of them are the very first recipes which  showed up when I did a Google search. If a recipe suggest club soda, flavorings, powdered sugar, etc, then don't bother with it. This is a classic cocktail: sugar, mint, spirit. Keep it simple and your taste buds will be rewarded.

Step 1: Put mint leaves and about half the simple syrup over the leaves in a Mint Julep cup, old-fashioned glass, or similar vessel you may have. I suggest a 2:1 sugar to water ratio syrup. You can try it any way you like but this seems to generally be the best choice for allowing a little more sugar content and less watered down beverage.

Step 2: Lightly press and meld leaves together with the syrup. Using the muddler brush the mint and sugar oils along the sides of the cup, painting and coating the walls. This is not a heavily mixed drink so you want to allow as much area to hold these oils for when you add the ice and bourbon. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH: DO NOT BRUISE YOUR MINT. If this happens you will have a beverage with strong and unpleasant vegetal character.

Step 3: Fill glass with crushed ice till it cones on the top of the glass. Add the bourbon, pouring slowly over the top. Some recipes add the bourbon first, I on the other hand like the more traditional way of pouring the bourbon over the ice, allowing the bourbon to cool on its way down. Because the ice is crushed, there is little surface area, which allows for cooling to happen quickly without stirring.

Step 4: Taking an additional mint in your hand (enough to cover much of the top opening of the glass), slap the mint with your hand, shocking it and allowing it to stick straight up. Garnish on top. When someone takes a drink with a straw, if you have one, they will be placing there nose right in the middle of the mint, smelling the fragrance as they sip.  

Step 5: Enjoy!

Mint Simple Syrup Recipe:

2 cups unrefined sugar
1 cup water
1 small handful of mint

Step 1: In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Step 2: Add mint and cold step for about 24 hours. 

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