Yesterday saw the Kentucky Derby horse race. Although I love the history and tradition of the culture of horse racing, I couldn’t care less about it as a sport. But there’s so much more to the Kentucky Derby than the sport of horse racing, I love the fashion of the day with the snazzy hats and the outfits that hearken back to an American golden age of good times and revelry, and my favorite part is the drink of choice that day… the amazing Mint Julep.
The Mint Julep and Kentucky Derby is as intertwined as beer and baseball. That’s true for my own experience as well. Although I’ll have a mint julep every now and then on a day other than the day of the Kentucky Derby, I don’t do so as often as I really should. It really is too good of a drink to limit to just one special day. Since the drink outshines the horse racing event in my opinion, the drink should appear in one’s life more than the races as well.
I had my first Mint Julep at a Kentucky Derby party. Every year, a bar in St. Louis called The Royale hosts a derby party and serves fantastic juleps along with great fun and games including live music, charity mouse races and best dressed contests. (I saw Miss Jubilee & the Humdingers play the year I attended, and before that I believe Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three played the event.) Here’s a video straight from The Royale of how they make a julep: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/gutcheck/2014/04/mint_juleps_at_the_royale.php
It’s pretty straight forward and how I prepare mine at home. Here’s a photo of the julep I enjoyed yesterday:
With such an iconic drink comes lots of legendary stories, and the best mint julep story I’ve heard involves those made by Tom Bullock.
Tom Bullock was a St. Louis bartender at the St. Louis Country Club and author of “The Ideal Baretender” in 1917. In a libel suit regarding a claim that he was frequently drunk, former President Theodore Roosevelt testified that he had only had one drink since leaving the oval office and that was Mr. Bullock’s Mint Julep, and furthermore that he had only had a sip or two.
Apparently Mr. Bullock’s mint julep was so good, the St. Louis Post Dispatch felt it warranted to call President Roosevelt out in an editorial claiming that no one could possibly limit themselves to only a sip or two of Mr. Bulkock’s julep. (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/18/dining/tom-bullock-the-ideal-bartender-offers-words-of-advice.html?referrer=)
The Mint Julep… a refreshing and stiff drink made of only bourbon, sugar, water and mint. The Mint Julep… a drink that should be placed upon the mantle of America as prominently as baseball and jazz themselves.
This isn’t the most exciting post, but it’s one that’ll prove useful. A lot of times, a recipe will call for a measurement other than an ounce or 1/4 of an ounce… like a dash or a splash, or an older recipe might even call for a pony, a cocktail glass or a wine glass of an ingredient. I thought it’d be helpful for myself to have a one-stop source of what all these measurements mean. So maybe this post’ll be helpful for others as well, but it’ll at least be a nice and easy reference for myself when mixing up a drink. Here’s a list of all the slightly unusual measurements you might come across when looking for cocktail recipes, along with another very handy recipe to have… simple syrup.
Dash = 6 drops
Splash = 1/2 ounce
Tablespoon = 1/2 ounce
Pony = 1 ounce
Cordial = 1 ounce
Pousse-cafe glass = 1.5 ounces
Jigger = 1.5 ounces
Shot = 1.5 ounces
Cocktail glass = 2 ounces
Wineglass = 4 ounces
Cup = 8 ounces
Small tumbler = 8 ounces
Large tumbler = 16 ounces
Mixing glass = 16 ounces
Fifth = 750 ml = 25.4 ounces
Equal parts sugar & water (1:1 ratio)
Combine the sugar & water in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering, stirring until the sugar dissolves. This will only take a few minutes. Remove pan from the heat, and let it sit to cool down to room temperature. After it’s cooled down, go ahead and transfer it to a container. You can store the simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Pretty simple, right? Simple syrup’s so easy to make, and you can just make enough for what you’ll most likely need in a month’s time, it’s definitely worth making and having on hand. You’ll be glad you have it, when you need it.
I’m back with a short blurb about cocktails in my home in the months of March and April.
Baseball’s back, and that means that the weather in St. Louis is warming up. With hotter weather, that usually means lighter drinks, so that’s what I’ve been having a little more of these days. Just a “little more of” though, because I really tend to enjoy whiskey on a regular basis much more than say gin or tequila. But it’s hard not to crave some lighter, more refreshing drinks in the spring & summer time, so I’ve been making some easy-to-make tequila drinks on a warmer spring evenings – the Havana and the Tequila Sunrise drinks. I’m sure my taste for lighter drinks will only increase as the weather in town becomes swelteringly hot and unbearably humid.
Also, I’m posting here some very basic cocktail recipes for 2 of the most classic cocktails of all time… the Manhattan and the Martini. These two classics are such staples that I’ve neglected to post anything about them up to this point, I think. So I’m honoring them with a little attention and a little of the spotlight, for good measure. They are, after all, 2 of my favorite, go-to drinks. When I don’t want to mess around, and I don’t want to think too much, and I want to just go for an easy-to-make drink that can’t go wrong… these are the drinks. They’re perfectly simple. When I’m in the mood for whiskey, it’s the Manhattan (even though, half the time I’ll make the drink’s variation, a Dry Manhattan with dry vermouth and lemon, and the other half of the time, I’ll go for the classic Manhattan); and when I’m in the mood for gin, it’s the Martini. Both of these classic cocktails showcase the base spirit so perfectly and clearly, without having to drink either of the base spirits straight. Vermouth plays the role of the red carpet in both drinks so perfectly, and lets the stars of the drinks shine through.
And last, but not least, I’m offering up a recipe for a drink that I’ve not yet tried, but I will be trying at some point this weekend. I tend to get very intrigued by cocktails with a good history behind them. Ever since I started enjoying making cocktails and reading about them, I’ve been intrigued by one called the Sazerac. The Sazerac is apparently one of the first important cocktails. It’s a signature drink of the great city of New Orleans. It was created in the 1860’s and was originally made with cognac as its base. Over time however, rye whiskey gained in popularity as cognac’s popularity with the public decreased, and now the Sazerac is a rye whiskey drink. I think another reason I became intrigued and obsessed with trying this drink is the fact that it contains absinthe, and so it seemed to me that it’d probably be a while before I could make this drink myself, since absinthe’s pretty darn expensive. However, it dawned on me this morning that my spirits store, Friar Tuck, sells miniature “sampling” bottles of many liquors, a couple of which I think were bottles of absinthe! So, I’m going today to get get a little bottle for around $6.00 I think. This is actually perfect too, because I’m really only buying the absinthe for this drink, and this drink only calls for enough absinthe to coat the inside of the glass. So this tiny little bottle should last quite a while for the purpose of making Sazeracs. Another item I need to pick up at the store today is a bottle of Peychaud’s bitters. The Sazerac recipe calls for specifically Peychaud’s brand of bitters. Apparently, Antoine Peychaud was a Pharmacist in New Orleans and he concocted this special blend of spices and botanicals, and using his bitters, his pharmacy was actually the birthplace of the Sazerac cocktail. (His pharmacy seems alot better than my local Walgreens… The closest thing I can get to a Sazerac at my modern pharmacy is Four Loco. Actually, I guess Four Loco is a good modern equivalent though to a drink that contains absinthe, since both Four Loco and Absinthe have reputations for seriously harming one’s physical health and possibly killing you, but I digress…) Anyways, that’s my objective today… to purchase the Peychaud’s bitters, a little bottle of absinthe, and a lemon, and be on my way to trying a Sazerac for the first time this weekend.
Without any further ado… Here’s recipes and photos of the 5 cocktails discussed above:
1.5 oz rum
3/4 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
A splash of orange juice (I actually enjoy about a full 1 oz of orange juice)
A dash of orange bitters
Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass (Optional: coat the rim of the glass with sugar)
This drink is really easy to drink… it’s really easy to make and it’s really refreshing and tasty, and it looks really pretty too! My wife loves it, and I agree. It’s just a really fun, easy drink, that’s really tasty.
1.5 oz blanco tequila
4 oz orange juice
3/4 oz grenadine
Fill a highball glass (I prefer to use a good sized white wine glass, like the one pictured) with ice, and build (no stirring/shaking necessary) the tequila, followed by the orange juice, and then lastly pour the grenadine slowly through the drink to create the “sunrise” look. Lovely!
2 oz whiskey
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
3 dashes of bitters (I prefer Fee Brothers’ Cherry Bitters in my Manhattan, from time to time)
1 maraschino cherry for garnish
Stir the whiskey, vermouth and bitters with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass
There’s a million variations on how to make a Martini… this is my preferred recipe:
2.5 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 or 3 olives for garnish
Stir the gin and vermouth with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass
Most people remember James Bond ordering his martini “shaken, not stirred”. However, the general rule is that a bar tender stirs drinks with ice when all of the ingredients are alcohol based, and shakes drinks when the recipe includes fruit juices and other non-alcoholic ingredients. So, the general rule is that a Manhattan and Martini should always be stirred to mix with ice, rather than shaken. However, there is no right way and wrong way to drink… One should do whatever they want to get the drink however they like it. I’ll stir a Manhattan and Martini 95% of the time, but every now and then, I do tend to enjoy the frothier texture one gets by shaking a drink as a result of small ice chips breaking up in the shaking process. So once in a blue moon, I will in fact shake the martini. You can kind of see the difference in the picture below of a shaken Martini – it’s not quite as clear as the picture of a properly stirred Martini above.
And last, but not least, here’s the recipe of my next adventure… the Sazerac! We’ll see if it lives up to the hype.
(no photo yet)
1 sugar cube
3-5 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
2 oz rye whiskey
Splash of absinthe
lemon peel for garnish
Combine the sugar and the bitters, and muddle to dissolve the sugar. Add the rye and some ice, and stir gently to combine. Take the chilled serving glass and add a splash of absinthe… Swirl the absinthe around to just coat the inside of the glass, and then pour out the excess absinthe. Strain the chilled rye, sugar and bitters in to this prepared glass. If you’re a purist, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon peel, and then discard. If you’re not a purist, twist the lemon peel over the top, or rub the rim, and drop it in to the drink for a garnish. (This recipe is a combination of 2 slightly different recipes from 2 different sources – see references below)