Some food, some drink.
A Summer Cocktail for Yourself or for a Crowd: Easy Mint Juleps.
A mint julep is a cocktail with a very short ingredient list, yet it's still a drink that folks consider to be a bit too fussy to sip on lest someone else is fixing it. However with a trivial bit of do-ahead, a mint julep can be a drink that can be had without a lot of work; and the best thing about this particular technique is that it can be scaled up to leverage a whole bottle of Bourbon Whiskey should the opportunity arise for you to throw that garden party you've always been meaning to host.
Nothing tastes better on a lazy summer day than a cool and refreshing adult beverage (this is a reoccuring theme for me). There's just something about sitting around doing nothing on an unusually warm day that makes you crave a cocktail; and it's always been a bit of a contradiction to think that a refreshing cocktail should be work when you're trying to be slothful. The mint julep is a case in point. There are recipes that call for all sorts of odd techniques (steeping overnight, muddling, and the like), and to top it all off somewhere along the way it was recommended that this drink need be served in a silver cup. Frankly, if I'm gonna spend extra money on a drink, I'd much rather put that dough toward the booze as opposed to the barware; and I'd much rather spend my lazy time with good company as opposed to staying hidden behind the bar. So, I think it's time to get back to the basics with the mint julep with a recipe that is as simple as it is versatile. If you have a mess of mint and 20 extra minutes in the kitchen while you're doing dishes some night, you can set yourself up for plenty of back porch easy-going moments with julep in hand.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Mint Simple Syrup
For the Syrup
Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat whisking occasionally to integrate (about 10 minutes). After boilage is reached, continue to boil on medium for another 5 minutes, kill the heat, and throw in the mint, stems, leaves and all.Let steep for about 5 minutes, then strain thru a coffee filter-equipped funnel into a thermally-safe container. Store capped up in the fridge until ready to use.
To Mix the Drink
Fill up a rocks glass with the pellet ice. Add 3 fluid oz of Bourbon and 1 fluid oz of mint syrup. Stir, slap a spring of mint on the table a couple of times and garnish your cocktail with the slightly damaged herb..
Alternately, to make-ahead for a crowd, grab a bottle at least one Liter in volume and pour in 8 fluid oz (one cup) of simple syrup along with a fifth (750ml) of Bourbon. Shake well, then store in the fridge until ready to serve, and when the time comes pour 4 fl oz (a half cup) of Bourbon/Syrup mix over that rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish each glass with the aforementioned bruised mint sprigs before serving.
- First off, I'm saying to hell with the silver cup. Have you priced a silver cup? After you order service for six, you'll need to see the loan officer to buy your Bourbon. Anyhow, the conductive heat transfer properties of silver are about 400x that of glass, meaning that your ice is gonna melt hella fast on a hot day in that metal tumbler. Putting a koozie on a silver cup kind of defeats the purpose; and anyhow if you're not worried about standing on ceremony, then it wouldn't even hurt to look at sipping out of something insulated.
- Oh, and on the topic of whiskey- don't go cheap, but don't break the bank either. You're mixing sugar and mint in here, and something as cold as a julep is going to obscure any subtle nuances in your hooch. Express these concerns to your local boozemonger and they should be able to point you in a good direction.
- See how I'm giving you weights for the mint? Get yourself a scale and measure out a half ounce of leaves and quit all the ridiculous estimating and deciding what constitutes a properly sized leaf.
- Don't discount the stems when you're infusing your simple syrup. Even if they're unsightly when floating about in a cocktail, there is all kinds of minty goodness in there that you'll want to extract. Besides, it's a lot easier to fish the spent mint from the simple syrup if you leave the stems in-tact.
- You don't have to strain your mint syrup thru a coffee filter. I've seen all kinds of critters crawling around in my mint patch, and if the occasional aphid or unidentifiable floaty doesn't bother you, by all means skip it (I'm being facetious people; filter your syrup, please).
- Sonic's ice is a must. If you don't have a Sonic (or worse, a Sonic that won't sell you bagged ice), then look for establishments that sell ice in a pellet form. If it comes down to it, don't be ashamed to buy 44oz cups full of ice.
It bears mentioning that this is a drink that starts out pretty stiff and mellows a bit as the ice melts. If you're not a big fan of whiskey, then you're going to want to try a whiskey drink that's a bit easier on the palate to break yourself in. Mint's damn near a noxious weed, so there's no reason to be stingy and neglect that garnish that's going to sit under your nose with every sip. After I've made my mint syrup, I keep a few large sprigs of mint cleaned and at the ready in a glass of water on my kitchen counter, so there's absolutely no hassle when it's time to imbibe.
There are plenty of opportunities to life to throw back highballs; a highball is an on-the go sort of drink. Hell, I can't push a vacuum cleaner on a Saturday without a gin and tonic in my hand (but that's another story). Sometimes it's good to take the opportunity to take a drink slow. In this case, the kick of the Bourbon forces you to take it easy, but that minty sweetness beckons you to take another sip all the same. In the meantime, there are plenty of pellets of the kind of ice that's fun to chew that makes for one of the few times you can appreciate a drink for its texture. Summer passes quick people; don't forget to take the time to be lazy at least once.