Southern Mint Julep

Southern Mint Julep
4 Sprigs Fresh Mint.
1/2 Tablespoonful Powdered Sugar.
1 Glass of Bourbon, Rye, or Canadian Club Whisky.

Use long tumbler and crush the Mint leaves and dissolved sugar lightly together, add Spirits and fill glass with cracked ice; stir gently until glass is frosted. Decorate on top with 3 Sprigs of Mint.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about the proper way to make a Mint Julep. From mint flavored simple syrup to mint infused Bourbon, there are 1001 ways to skin this cat.

Even among the more basic recipes, as with the Mojito, there is disagreement about how crushed, or muddled, the mint leaves should be. Some people muddle the mint up into a paste, others leave the leaves more intact.

Interestingly, Issue 3 of McSweeney’s Lucky Peach magazine has an article by food science guru Harold McGee called, “On Handling Herbs”, in which he talks about how to get the best flavor out of herbs when using them in cooking.

One of the first things he notes is, “Ripe fruits are delicious as is, because the parent plant has evolved to encourage animals to eat them and spread their seeds far and wide. Herbs and spices can make foods delicious, but they’re usually not delicious in themselves, because plants don’t want animals to chew up their leaves and seeds and roots…most herb and spice flavors are actually chemical weapons.”

He goes on to say, “How you handle herbs can also affect their flavor. The defensive chemicals responsible for plant flavors are usually concentrated in fine, hairlike glands on leaf surfaces (the mint family, including basil, oregano, sage, shiso, and thyme) or in special canals within the leaves (most other herbs). If you leave the herbs pretty much intact, what you get is mainly the characteristic flavor of that herb. But if you crush the herb, or cut it very finely, you damage a lot of cells and cause the release of the green, grassy, vegetal defensive chemicals.”

I’ve known this anecdotally, but never had it explained quite so clearly. If you muddle the mint in your Mojito or Julep, it tastes grassy and bitter. If you handle the mint gently, you get light, clear, mint flavor and scent.

To me, this argues against truly “crushing”, “pulverizing”, or “muddling” the mint (or other herbs) in any drink.

To make a mint Julep these are my usual instructions:

Mint Julep

4 fresh and lively sprigs mint (there is nothing sadder than a julep made with wilted mint)
1/4 oz Simple Syrup (generous 1/4 oz Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup)
2 oz Bourbon and a little extra for garnish (2+ oz Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, bottled 2003)
Fine Ice

METHOD: Strip the leaves from the lower stems of the mint and place in julep cup. Reserve upper sprigs for garnish. Pour in your simple syrup and use a spoon or muddler to gently rub the mint and syrup up and down the sides of the cup. Add Bourbon and ice to fill half way up the cup. Vigorously mix together mint leaves, syrup, bourbon, and ice. Top up with more fine ice and sprinkle a little extra bourbon over ice. Slap the reserved sprigs against your palm, form into a bunch, and insert into ice. Poke straws in ice near the mint sprigs, serve, and inhale.

Also, if you aren’t reading Lucky Peach, you really should be. For my money, it’s the best writing about food, cooking, and working in restaurants that you can currently find. If you have to, cancel your cable subscription to the Food Network, and subscribe to Lucky Peach instead.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Pineapple Julep

Pineapple Julep
(6 People)
Take a large glass jug and fill it 1/4 full of crushed ice. Pour in the juice of two oranges, a glass of Raspberry Vinegar, a glass of Maraschino, a glass and a half of Gin, and a bottle of Sparkling Moselle or Saumur. Pull a pineapple to pieces with a silver fork and place the pieces in the jug. Stir the mixture, add a little fruit for appearances’s sake, and serve.

The Pineapple Julep has always been a drink that has intrigued me. Why is it a Julep? What on earth is that Raspberry Vinegar doing in there? I didn’t think people started adding vinegar to drinks until the 21st Century! Not to mention, what’s that business with pulling a pineapple to pieces with a “silver fork”?

Since it is my suspicion that many of the older drinks came from some edition of Jerry Thomas’ “Bon Vivant’s Companion”, I thought I would check for the recipe there and see how it compares:

92. Pineapple Julep

Peel, slice, and cut up a ripe pineapple into a glass bowl, add the juice of two oranges, a gill of raspberry syrup, a gill of Maraschino, a gill of old gin, a bottle of sparkling Moselle, and about a pound of pure ice in shaves; mix, ornament with berries in season, and serve in flat glasses.

Uh, whoops, that’s quite a bit different, even if it contains most of the same elements. The biggest difference, being the Savoy’s change from “Raspberry Syrup” to “Raspberry Vinegar”. Bizarre. Typo? Intentional change?

Regarding the Sparkling Moselle in the Julep, I did some searching on the Internets and discovered that the Moselle is a region along the Mosel River in France and Germany. Sparkling wines are, or were, produced in both France (Crémant de Luxembourg) and Germany (Mosel Sekt).

Not sure which to look for a sent a quick note to Heaven’s Dog’s Wine Director, Gus Vahlkamp.

Erik: Gus, If a punch recipe from 1862 called for “Sparkling Moselle”, what
modern wine would you recommend?

Gus: Hi Erik, nice to hear from you. Yes, sekt is your best bet, although most of it comes from the Rheingau these days and not so much from Mosel. Solter is probably the easiest producer to find in SF, but I would check either at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants or K&L for others. Also I’d imagine that 19th century sekt was probably a little sweeter than the majority of most modern products. I hope that helps. Cheers, Gus.

Well, I never mind a trip to K&L Wines, where I found a single Sekt from the Rheingau, Latitude 50 N Sekt Trocken Weiss, described as follows:

This Methode Champenoise sparkler is made from a combination of pinot blanc, muller-thurgau and silvaner. It is dry, bright and made for food, especially oysters, and this would be just the ideal sparkler to usher in a brand new 2012.

Sparkling German Wine in hand, the only thing which remained to reproduce the original Pineapple Julep Recipe was Raspberry Syrup.

I really liked the Raspberry Syrup I made for the Albemarle Fizz, so I searched the site for the recipe and whipped up another batch:

Raspberry Syrup
1/2 cup Water
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
1 Cup Frozen Raspberries
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. When sugar is dissolved, add raspberries and Balsamic Vinegar. Strain through chinois or cheesecloth, mashing to get as much of the liquid as possible. Cool and refrigerate. Makes about 12 ounces.

Regarding the amounts in the Jerry Thomas recipe, a “Gill” is about 4 ounces. Not sure whether Mrs. Flannestad would be up to split the Julep, I decided to make a half batch.

Lastly, depending on the wine you use and the level of sweetness in your ingredients, you may find the Julep comes out too sweet for modern tastes. I know I did, and found it significantly improved with the addition of the juice of 1/2 Lemon.

Pineapple Julep
1/2 Pineapple, peeled and chopped
2 oz Bols Aged Genever
2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 oz Raspberry Syrup
Juice 1 Orange
Juice 1/2 Lemon
1/2 Bottle Sparkling Wine

METHOD: Combine Pineapple, Gin, Liqueur, Raspberry Syrup, and Juice in a bowl. Fill half way with crushed ice and top with Sparkling Wine. Stir gently, garnish with berries in season, and ladle into appropriate glassware.

My coworkers and I have occasionally joked, with the horrible ingredients that are often mixed up and sold as “nutcracker” or “crunk juice”, we should get together and bottle a high quality equivalent.

Tasting the Pineapple Julep, I believe I have a starting place for that endeavor! Alize and X Rated Fusion look out, this is some exotically tasty and easy sipping beverage! Pineapple Juleps for all my friends!

Bonus Beer of the Week! Some of my favorite Belgian Beers are actually the less strong ones. Designed to be drunk during the day by the Monks, these are tasty examples of the Belgian style, without so much alcohol.

The Witkap Pater Singel, now called “Stimulo” is one of my favorites.

Witkap·Pater Stimulo (Alc. 6% vol.) is a refreshing gold-colored beer of high fermentation and with fermentation on the bottle – thus a living beer with evolving taste. Pored with care you get a rich, white and stable foam collar with a creamy structure and sticking to the glass. You can smell the aromatic hop flowers of Erembodegem near Aalst (Belgium), a local natural product. You can also smell a strong ferment typically for the Witkap-Pater. Their are no other taste-makers used. During degustation you get a taste sensation starting with a soft mouth filling taste, passing in the a refreshing taste and ending with a tasty hop-bitter after taste.

Yum!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Champange Julep

First, just a reminder that Sunday, February 26, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Champagne Julep
Use long tumbler.
1 Lump Sugar. (1/2 oz Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup)
2 Sprigs Mint.
Fill glass with Champagne (Delmas Blanquette de Limoux). Stir gently and decorate with slices of fruit in season.

I guess the odd thing about the Champagne Julep is that the recipe omits the inclusion of any ice in the glass. I’m chalking that up to carelessness, as it wouldn’t really seem like a julep to me without the fine ice.

Regarding various Sparkling Wines, in my opinion, most Champagne is a little low on the value per dollar scale. Others often recommend using Prosecco or Cava instead of Champagne. While there are good examples of these wines, a lot of the more common ones are only OK. Decent examples of American Sparkling Wines tend to be nearly as expensive as their French counterparts.

My favorite value per dollar Sparkling wines are French sparkling wines from other regions than Champagne. Just about every region of France makes a sparkling wine, but, as with American Sparkling Wine, they can’t call it Champagne. There the wines go by names like “Crémant d’Alsace”, “Crémant de Bourgogne”, “Crémant de Jura”, “Crémant de Luxembourg”, or “Blanquette de Limoux”.

As far as the Champagne Julep goes, well, it is refreshing, cold, and light.

Maybe the sort of drink for those times when an Old Cuban might be a little too much.

What? You don’t know what an Old Cuban is?

Well, let’s rectify that situation right now!

Old Cuban

3/4 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
6 leaves mint
muddle and add ice
1 1/2 oz Cruzan Estate Dark Rum
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Top with champagne.

Recipe cribbed (Old Cuban) from Robert Hess, over at The Cocktail Spirit.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Mint Julep

Juleps.

Mint Julep
The Julep is a delightful potion that originally came out of the Southern States of America, and many great men have sung its praises through the years. It was the famous Capt. Marryatt, skipper and novelist, who introduced the beverage into the British Isles and below we quote his recipe in his own words : — “ I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is, with the thermometer at 100 degrees, one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was in- vented, and may be drunk- with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70 degrees. There are many varieties such as those composed of Claret, Madeira. etc., but the ingredients of the real mint julep are as follows. I learned how to make them, and succeeded pretty well. Put into a tumbler almost a dozen sprigs of the tender shoots of mint. upon them put a spoonful of white sugar, and equal proportions of Peach and common Brandy so as to fill it up one-third, or perhaps a little less. Then take rasped or pounded ice, and fill up the tumbler.
“Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with a piece of fresh pineapple, and the tumbler itself is very often encrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink. I once overheard two ladies talking in the next loom to me, and one of them said, ‘Well, if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a mint julep!’ a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”

Most of the above comes, verbatim, from Jerry Thomas, however Mr. Thomas’ exact recipe for the Mint Julep is a bit more advanced:

88. Mint Julep

1 table-spoonful of white pulverized sugar.
2 1/2 table-spoonful of water, mix well with a spoon.

Take three or four sprigs of fresh mint, and press them well in the sugar and water, until the flavor of the mint is extracted; add one and a half wine=glass of Cognac brandy, and fill the glass with fine shaved ice, then draw out the sprigs of mint and insert them in the ice with the stems downward, so that the leaves will be above, in the shape of a bouquet; arrange berries, and small pieces of sliced orange on top in a tasty manner, dash with Jamaica rum, and sprinkle white sugar on top. Place a straw as represented in the cut, and you have a julep that is fit for an emperor.

Well, I’ll give it a shot, combining both.

First off, a couple points. First, as related by many authors including Mr. David Wondrich, the “Peach Brandy” in the Southern Mint Julep, is NOT a liqueur, it was an actual Brandy made from peaches and aged in wood. Unfortunately, this is a hard commodity to come by in the modern age, and when you do find it, often costly.

A while ago, a friend made up a batch of Pear Brandy and aged it in Oak, of which I purchased a small bottle. So I will use this instead.

Second, regarding Mr Thomas’ elaborate mint ritual, as I’m stripping leaves from the mint, I usually just use those pieces in the bottom of the julep cup, and leave them there.

Lastly, the julep should technically be made with “shaved” ice, which is hard to do at home, unless you have a ice shaving machine. I don’t, so I just beat the crap out of some ice cubes. It’s not quite shaved, but close enough.

Mint Julep

1 1/2 oz Artez Folle Blanche Armagnac
1 1/2 oz Aged Pear Brandy
generous 1/4 oz Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup

Strip the lower leaves from several sprigs of mint. Place the leaves the bottom of a julep cup and add the gum syrup. Press gently into the gum syrup to extract flavor. Add Brandies and fill with fine ice. Stir until the sides of the cup frost and garnish with fresh sprigs of mint and slices of orange.

So, the Julep is a funny drink. Often, people see the mint and think the Julep is similar to a Mojito. Then they’ll order one and discover it is a big, cold, glass of slightly sweetened and minty Brandy (or Whiskey). A great Julep is a fantastic drink, but without the citrus and soda, it can be a bit of a shock to the system of someone expecting a mild drink like the Mojito.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.