Julep “season” is almost upon us, what with the Kentucky Derby around the corner. Though if you’re like us, you don’t stand on ceremony, and a nice julep is welcome any time once the weather gets reasonably warm. Which means above 50 degrees around here. 🙂 With that in mind, we decided to try a few different classic juleps as well as noodle around with our own variation on the recipe, because that’s what we do around here. 🙂
First up is the classic julep from David Embury’s book. As always, David has some interesting historical info on the drink. He also mixes it wicked strong, which we appreciate. This one calls for a strong bourbon of the best quality you have available.
- 3 oz bourbon
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 20 mint leaves (we like our juleps very minty, add more or less according to taste)
Muddle mint leaves in simple syrup in the julep cup. (We recommend proper julep cups if possible. Use heavy glass cups if not and chill longer). Add the bourbon. Place cup in freezer and chill for at least 30 minutes. Crush ice in Lewis bag until very fine. Scoop ice into cup until approximately two thirds full. Stir well. Top with more ice. Stir until a nice film of frost forms on the cup.
- Nose: Bourbon & mint. Duh!
- Palate: Bourbon, sugar & mint. Bourbon carries through clear and strong. Sweet mint & caramel barrel notes into the mid-palate, then more vegetal mint and spice from the bourbon. We used one of the more rye-forward alphabet bourbons from Four Roses (OBSK) with a nice barrel strength of 62.6% ABV.
- 2 oz cognac
- 1 oz real peach brandy (actual aged peach eau de vie, not a peach liqueur. We used the Peach Street)
- 20 mint leaves
- 1 tsp simple syrup
From Vintage Sprits & Forgotten Cocktails. Muddle mint in simple syrup. Add other ingredients. Chill. Crush ice in Lewis bag until very fine. Scoop ice into cup until approximately two thirds full. Stir well. Top with more ice. Stir until a nice film of frost forms on the cup.
- Nose: Peach, little bit of mint, funky oak barrel notes, sort of the way barrel rooms smell. Slight fuzzy green smell like tomatoes.
- Palate: Mint is less pronounced than in the classic version. Little bit subtler and smoother. Somewhat sweeter for Shaun. Very pleasant peach jam flavor. Round rich toffee flavor from the cognac with a touch of oak. Mint throughout. The cognac is a nice alternative, but we miss the bite and character of a strong barrel strength bourbon.
Finally we decided to mess around with the Georgia recipe and see what we could come up with. First off we tried rye, Fernet, mint, simple and a rum float. According to Embury, the rum float is a “controversial” addition. Not being big sticklers for tradition we decided to embrace it. 🙂 We tried a couple different ryes and found that a more assertive rye worked well with the Fernet. We also decided to try a version with calvados instead of the peach brandy, Washington being a big producer of apples and all that. Initially we tried equal proportions of rye and calvados thinking that the calvados would be too delicate to stand up to the rye. However, calvados is surprisingly robust and we backed it down the the 2:1 proportion after some tests. Trying both side by side, we decided that the calvados was the nicer of the two and rolled with that. Ultimately what we came up with wasn’t a huge divergence from the Georgia julep ingredient wise, but quite tasty in our opinion.
- 2 oz rye (we used the Willett’s 4 year rye)
- 1 oz calvados
- 20 mint leaves
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 1/4 oz float of Jamaican rum
Follow the above directions for the Georgia Mint Julep. Then top with a float of rum.
- Nose: Apple, mint, rye spice. Lots of funky rum.
- Palate: Mint again quite present but subdued compared to the classic version. Mint and apple preserves to start, followed by a sweet-tart bite of fresh apple. Custardy vanilla from the rum and black pepper pungency on the mid-palate. Rye spice creating structure, but not overwhelming. More apple and mint on the finish. Little bit of meaty, savory flavor on the after taste, like unsmoked bacon.
So when Derby Day rolls around, or any other time you feel like it, throw together a delicious julep and enjoy the sunshine. Or at least don’t mind the rain too much 😉
Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep—the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain.