The Mint Julep

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. 



“Mamie” was a “Liberal”, used to throw “Paper Planes” off the “South Slope”. One day, tuckered out, she laid down for a “Siesta” and slept like a “Corpse”. (You’ll have to pardon me… I had no good title for this post.)

The conclusion that you might draw from the lame title of this post is that there’s no real overarching them to this post’s drinks.  You’d be right!  I present to you 6 random drinks that feature random ingredients, with nothing in common with each other, other than the fact that they’re all pretty damn good.  A couple of them feature Lillet Blanc, which is a new ingredient for my home bar.  Lillet is a delicious French aperitif wine.  It’s rather sweet and fruity, consisting of a blend of mostly Bordeaux wines and some citrus liqueurs.  One of its most famous roles being that of a key player in a cocktail with one of the best names ever, the “Corpse Reviver #2”.   (I actually went out to get my first bottle of Lillet Blanc, specifically so I’d be able to make this drink.)  Another new ingredient featured in this post is ginger beer.  I love ginger ale, but this is the first time I’ve ever tried true ginger beer.  Ginger beer is what ginger ale used to be like, back in the olden days.  Ginger beer actually has ginger in it, and quite the spice you’d expect from a soda made with real ginger.  A lot of classic cocktails call for ginger beer, so I picked up a bottle of “Lewis Osterweis & Sons” ginger beer, made by The Saint Louis Brewery (aka Schlafly).  It’s not something I’d necessarily want to drink every day, but it’s definitely worth keeping a bottle or two in the house for when you do want one.

“Corpse Reviver #2”

What a delicious drink!  I love the taste of the lemon with just a slight underlying flavor of absinthe, mmmm!  I might actually think this drink is a little heavy on the lemon, and I might like it more with a little less, but nonetheless, it’s delicious!  It’s very smooth and easy to drink, but also a bit complex in its flavor mixture, with the Lillet and a little bit of the absinthe (Note: 3 drops means just that, 3 small drops, not 3 dashes).  Love it!

1 oz. gin

1 oz. Lillet Blanc

1 oz. lemon juice

1 oz. triple sec

3 drops of absinthe

Shake well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a cherry

“The Liberal”

I’ve been wanting to try this drink for some time, as I love its name too.  It’s a pretty good drink.  It’s got a unique taste.  The amaro wrestles with the sweet vermouth, pinning the vermouth’s sweetness and adding a bittnerness, while the orange bitters and bourbon stand on the side lines cheering and encouraging the fight.  Good drink indeed.

1.5 oz. bourbon

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth

6 dashes amaro

2 (healthy) dashes of orange bitters

Stir well with ice and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a cherry

The good version of “The Liberal” from “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails” by Ted Haigh (above)

There’s another recipe for “The Liberal” that’s actually more common on the Internet.  I, for one, am not a fan of this version.  I highly recommend following the recipe above instead.

More common recipe (echh):

1.5 oz. rye whiskey

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

1/4 oz. amaro

2 dashes or orange bitters

Stir well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist

The not-so-good version more commonly found on the Internet (below)

“South Slope”

This drink is delicious! It’s dry, citrusy, bitter and smooth, all in one!  It’s a really nice cocktail, a perfect blend of tastes and senses.  

3/4 oz. gin

3/4 oz. Aperol

3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc

1/2 oz. orange curacao

1/2 oz. lemon juice

Shake well with ice and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist

(“PDT Cocktail Book”)

“Mamie Taylor”

This is a good drink, with quite a unique flavor combination with the smokiness of the scotch and the spiciness of the ginger, pulled together by the unifying lime juice.  It works very well together though!  It’s quite a unique summer-time refresher.  Ted Haigh writes in his book that this drink was considered a fancy drink back in its heyday, and I understand why… the scotch soothes the soul while the ginger excites the heart, and the lime keeps it all in perspective.

2 oz. scotch

3/4 oz. lime juice

ginger beer (not just ginger ale)

Pour the scotch and lime juice into an ice-filled highball glass, and fill to the top with ginger beer, and then stir gently.

Garnish with a lime wedge

“Paper Plane”

This is a pretty good drink.  It’s a bit too lemony perhaps, but a nice flavor, all in all.  All the different flavors (a little bitter meets a little tart) blend very well in to a good single, unified flavor.  Definitely not a bad drink (but nothing that special either).

3/4 oz. bourbon

3/4 oz. amaro

3/4 oz. Aperol

3/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

“Siesta”

And last but not least… Definitely NOT least!  This drink is absolutely AMAZING!  This is one of the best drinks around.  This drink is so good and delicious!  The smooth, sweet tequila, with the tart grapefruit juice and the bitter Campari, smoothed out in relief of the simple syrup… Mmmmmm… a perfect mix of flavors!  It’s a complex drink that’s both an “easy goin’ summer-time drink” and a “sophisticated cocktail” at the same time.  Write this one down, then drink it down, folks!

2 oz. silver tequila

1/2 oz. Campari

1/2 oz. lime juice

1/2 oz. grapefruit juice

1/2 oz. simple syrup

Shake well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a grapefruit twist (I used a lime twist)

(“PDT Cocktail Book”)


A Scientific Spring

 

I, Scientist McGee, am formally declaring myself ready for spring time!

It’s been well over a month since my last post, and I have no real good reason for the delay at all.  The true reason for the dry spell has been a total lack of inspiration on my part.  I think I’ve been totally uninspired to try new drinks, because of the limbo between winter and spring that I found myself stuck in.  I had grown tired of warm winter drinks, but wasn’t quite ready yet to mix up cool summertime favorites.

Well, it’s warm out there, and beautiful too!  And I’m ready to drink spring and summertime fancy drinks!  So in today’s blog, I’m putting winter to rest, and providing a “sneak peek” at some of the new lighter ingredients that should be gracing the SMcG blog in the next several months!

Let’s close out winter, shall we?  And then I’ll show you the fun assortment of ingredients I splurged on this weekend, and am very excited to try!

Closing out the winter months, I’ve got two good ones for you…

“Breast Pocket Cocktail”

My favorite of the two is my favorite because it’s one I dreamed up.  I call it the “Breast Pocket Cocktail” because it could very well be concocted at a beer drinkin’ party with a secret flask of rye in one’s breast pocket of their jacket.  It’s a beer cocktail featuring the pride and joy of St. Louis, Schlafly beer (http://www.schlafly.com/), specifically Schlafly’s Dry Hopped APA (American Pale Ale).  I love Schlafly’s Dry Hopped APA, and as I was drinking it recently, I thought that it would go great with some rye whiskey added to it.  The beer itself is very hoppy and aromatic, and I thought it would mix nicely with the spiciness of rye (my favorite type of whiskey).  After a few tries, I figured out a good balance where the APA contributes flavors to the drink without overshadowing the other ingredient.  The hops of the APA go really well with the spice of the rye, and the orange bitters and lemon add a refreshing citrus zip.  I’m not one to make up my own drinks.  I think this is technically only my second?  The way I see it is that there are thousands of amazing drinks that have already been made up, that I’m sure I’ll never even have time to try.  I enjoy drinking my way through these, so why would I feel the need to focus on making up my own drinks as an at-home bartender?  Unless inspiration strikes me, and I’m craving something that probably does not exist – like a cocktail featuring a hometown beer.  I have to say, I’m quite proud of this delicious drink!

2 oz. rye whiskey

3 oz. Schlafly Dry Hopped APA

2 dashes of orange bitters

Build over ice, in a rocks glass, then stir gently, and garnish with a lemon peel.


“Left Hand Cocktail”

This cocktail’s one I made last night using one of my new ingredients, Aztec Chocolate Bitters (Fee Brothers).  This drink comes from “The PDT Cocktail Book”, and actually calls for Bittermens’ brand of “Xocolatl Mole Bitters”.  The only snag was that the Bittermens bitters cost $20 for a 4 ounce bottle, and I did not want to spend that much money on a bitters.  So instead I bought the Fee Brothers, which ran me $6.50 for the same size bottle.  I’d never tried either of these chocolate bitters, so I was a little worried that they’d taste dramatically different, and perhaps they do… I won’t know until I get a taste of the Bittermens.  I have a feeling though that they’re similar enough to warrant saving the $14.  Both are based on Mexican ingredients, featuring chocolate, peppers and spices.  Some reviews I was able to find online described the Bittermens as more complex in its flavors and the Fee Brothers as having the chocolate flavor more prominent.  Maybe this is true, however I found that I really liked the Fee Brothers bitters because of its spiciness.  Maybe they’re more chocolaty than the Bittermens, but they’re also definitely not just chocolate… they’ve got some peppery spice and kick to go along with it!  (I’m sure the Bittermens are in fact better and more complex, because the Bittermens are 53% alcohol, whereas the Fee Brothers are a water-based bitters, but the $14 I saved bought me 4 used jazz records and a stock of plastic LP sleeves on the way home, so I think I definitely won!)

This drink wound up being a very unique and tasty one.  It was a dark, somewhat sweet drink, with a relatively bitter taste (with the Campari).  It also had a nice freshness added though, by the peppers in the bitters, and just a faint  smoky chocolate flavor underneath.  It was definitely a very complex tasting drink, that I was glad I had tried.

1.5 oz. bourbon

3/4 oz. sweet vermouth

3/4 oz. Campari

2 dashes of Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters (or Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters, as called for in its original recipe)

Stir well with ice, and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Add 3 cherries on a pick as a garnish.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”)

And now, without further ado… I declare winter officially over for me!  On to my new springtime splurge!

This weekend, I splurged and bought more than I am usually able to buy at once.  I had to do this though to gear up for spring and summer!  As I explained earlier… I haven’t been inspired to try any new drinks.

But now I am!

Several of these ingredients I’ve been wanting to buy and try for quite some time.  They are the Aperol and the anejo tequila, as well as the chocolate and rhubarb bitters.  Aperol is an Italian bitter aperitif much like Campari (in fact it is now owned by the Campari company), but I’ve heard that it’s perhaps a bit sweeter and bit less intense and less bitter?  (Not sure, but I’ll know soon enough.)  Anejo tequila is tequila that’s been aged for at least a year, but no more than 3 years, in oak barrels.  The oak barrels tend to be old ones that were previously used for whiskeys and Bourbons north of the border, adding more of a complex flavor than other tequilas.

The Luxardo maraschino liqueur is one I’ve enjoyed many times before and just needed to make sure to have plenty in stock for the spring and summer months ahead.  As I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog, I love maraschino liqueur!  I’d go so far as to say that I can’t live without it.  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ahem.

The orchard pear liqueur is made by Rothman & Winter, the same company that makes the creme de violette I have on hand to make my Aviations.  This was bought on kind of a whim because I’ve just recently begun liking pears this year.  Plus I spotted a recipe in the PDT book that looked really good (the “Statesman” with gin, orchard pear, green Chartreuse and orange bitters… mmmm…)

So let Spring begin!  I’ll be gladly sharing some new drinks, featuring these new ingredients that have been added to my bar, in the upcoming season.  Cheers, and Go Cards!