This post comes to us courtesy of writer and mixologist Warren Bobrow.
We haven’t had a real winter this year here in Morristown, New Jersey. Not yet anyway — a bit of snow a couple of weeks ago provided a blanket of moisture over the mint patch. Usually in February the only inkling of mint is that in my memory of Mint Juleps from prior hot summer months. There is nothing I like more than to sip a refreshing cocktail, frosty in my hand, cutting the heat when the air is humid and still.
It is February, and the ground is supposed to be frozen solid! After a quick walk though the garden the other day I noticed something out of the ordinary for February: fresh mint green tips, redolent with the icy morning dew. Mint shouldn’t be showing itself for at least two more months, but there it is.
A bottle of Kentucky Bourbon, handmade by passionate men, sits on the sideboard; I usually enjoy a nip in the winter for simple mixed drinks. A couple of cubes of ice, a splash of freshly drawn branch water from the spring — that’s about it in my glass. Now is an opportunity to prepare a very early season Mint Julep, and I’m seizing the moment.
The handcrafted Mint Julep is more of a connection to history than just a basic cocktail. The preparation is a series of historically relevant steps.
10 fresh mint leaves
2 to 3 shots bourbon whiskey
1 tsp. raw sugar, plus more to taste
First, you must polish the silver Julep cup to a liquid-like shine. I like using ketchup. That’s right: I use it on my copper pots too. Ketchup, with its low pH and high natural acidity, just eats away tarnish like nobody’s business. There are no chemicals in ketchup like those polishes and preparations, so any extra can be smeared on a tangle of French fries!
Wash & Dry
Carefully wash the ketchup off the cup, and dry with a soft cloth.
Prepare the Ice
Crush ice to pebble consistency.
Use High-Quality Bourbon
Use 100-proof “Bottled in Bond” Bourbon. Bottled in bond refers to an American-made spirit that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the U.S. government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. The spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. “Bottled-in-bond” whiskey came to be regarded as “the good stuff.”
Muddle mint with some raw brown sugar. Be sure to use a wooden muddler; do not use metal on silver! I don’t use simple syrup. Syrup is the fast way, but I prefer the slow method of crafting a mint julep. You will be able to smell the mint.
Add a bit of ice, then some bourbon. Muddle. Add some more ice and bourbon until a fine frost appears on the sides of your cup.
When the drink is complete the ice/sugar/mint/bourbon ratio will be perfect. Sip with reverence!
About the author: Warren Bobrow is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Table on Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. Warren was an Iron Mixology Judge at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival 2012. He attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in 2011. Warren has published over three hundred articles in fewer than three years since his reinvention from executive assistant in private banking to author. Warren writes with a unique free-form style. He is a writer/mixologist on everything from cocktail flavoring and Biodynamic/organic wines to restaurant reviews. He writes for Edible Jersey, Voda Magazine, Foodista, Tasting Panel, Beverage News and Total Food Service Magazine. Warren is the “On Whiskey” columnist for OKRA Magazine in New Orleans part of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ on a Biodynamic farm.