So I had to resort to hiring a crew to clean up my yard after the wholly inadequate job I did last Fall of putting the gardens to bed. I was outside in the gloaming just now and discovered that my unstoppable bed of mint has put in its debut. This annual appearance always leaves me of two minds. On the one hand, my struggle to keep it in its confined bed becomes more and more like Leiningen vs the Ants each year. On the other hand, mint is the greatest combined cocktail ingredient and garnish since limes.
Screw lemons. They aren’t in the same class.
The way I see it, a cocktailian has only two choices when he beholds nature’s first offering of mint each year. He can whip up a Mai Tai with a garnish so thick it tickles one’s whole face. Or it is Julep Time, baby! Somehow, I always end up making the same choice. There is time enough for Tiki Month flashbacks later.
Screw waiting for Derby Day. And screw the sickly sweet, maddeningly green concoctions you are too likely to get at a commercial bar or lame home parties when Derby Day comes. The Julep is one of the truly great cocktail categories of the 19th Century, and it is high time it is restored to greatness in the 21st.
- 2 oz. Bourbon (Four Roses Small Batch today)
- 1 oz. dark rum
- 1/2 oz. VSOP cognac
- 1/2 cap of orange flower water
- 10-20 mint leaves, just sprouted from the bosom of Mother Earth.
- 1/2 – 1 oz. simple sugar
Put mint and sugar in a silver cup. (Or silver plated at the least. Only in the Moscow Mule is a metal cup more important.) Muddle the mint gently. Don’t crush it. Add the other ingredients and stir. Pack the glass full of crushed ice and garnish with the pick of the litter among the mint you have available. Enjoy outdoors if you can.
That is my recipe. You can omit the other spirits, if you like. If you are a wimp. You can also substitute rye for the bourbon, which I often do, especially if I’m having my Julep before, rather than with food. A Julep at its heart is just spirit, sugar, and mint. How you put it together shows whether you are a contender… or a pretender.