Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Collaboration

Still a big favorite!!!

This is a drink that was created in February of this year through a serendipitous collaboration with a friend, whereby we named off ingredients like a dare, decided on the proportions together, and then we each made one in our own home bar.

The results were jaw droppingly good and the drink has been in regular rotation for both of us for several months now. Up until now I've been keeping it to myself rather greedily - a closely guarded secret, and it's only with said friend's blessings, that I am releasing the recipe now.

It is versatile in its serving requirements, working as equally well as a slow sipper in an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube, as it is served "up" in a cocktail glass as a quick "pick-me-up".

We've played with a few variations, Wild Turkey Rye works best with its big bold spicy rye flavor. The Wormwood bitters add a very nice touch and are worth seeking out, though Angostura will work in a pinch.

The Cocchi's high quinine profile works better than Lillet to provide structure against the Strega/Averna combo, and gives just the right mouth feel to the drink.

The 1/4 ounce of Strega may not seem like is in fact enough to allow the robust character of this spirit to be known in the drink. Also, it somehow allows the more subtle flavors of the liqueur to emerge.

Averna is just the right choice of amari to inject herbal depth and subtle sweetness into the mix, and it balances perfectly Strega's brash character. [Mix these two together over ice on a 2:1 ratio (Averna to Strega), you have an excellent digistif with wonderful balance and depth.]

The sublime in this recipe is the transformation that takes places when all of these ingredients come together.

With this recipe the whole is most certainly greater than the sum of its parts. How we struck upon this crazily good of a drink on the first try, still makes us chuckle in disbelief. Try it for yourself, I'd love to hear what you think!

The "Collab"(oration)

1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce (22 ml) Cocchi Americano
1/2 ounce (15 ml) Averna
1/4 ounce (7 ml) Strega
1-2 good dashes of Cocktail Kingdom's Wormwood Bitters

Stir with ice and strain over a large ice cube, or serve up in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Friday, May 20, 2011


The Gaslight

1 1/2 ounce (45 ml) Scotch Whisky
1/2 ounce (15ml) sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce (7ml) orange curacao
1 dash Drambuie

Stir with ice (except Drambuie) and strain into a cocktail glass. Float Drambuie and garnish with an orange twist.

Nice. Especially with Talisker 10 and Drambuie 15, and the Cointreau/Antica combo holds its own well against the heavily peated and wonderfully smokey Talisker. 

Warming too on these cool, rainy spring days we've been having lately. A lighter, fruitier Scotch drink that should appeal to those that enjoy a "Rusty Nail" now and again, and are open to trying something new. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Little King

Gin, apricot brandy, applejack and lemon juice. That got my attention. Created by a cartoonist, sounded even more interesting. I came across this in the Big Bartender's Book and was surprised it had not caught my eye before. 

Otto Soglow (December 23, 1900 -April 3, 1975)

From Ted Saucier's 1951 title Bottoms Up, and accredited to cartoonist Otto Soglow, this drink was named after a popular comic strip that Otto created for the New Yorker in 1931.

A 32 year old Otto is on the far left, celebrating the end of prohibition in 1933 with some of his fellow cartoonists.

An article in LIFE from 1951 suggested that Soglow and a number of other cartoonists (one is partially visible in the photo above at the right) were brought together to test the properties of waterproof ink; as after being drawn on, the models were doused in water. 

This is also the year Ted Saucier published the Little King recipe in his book Bottoms Up....coincidence? Most likely, but what a great one to document here!

Ted's recipe from 1951 was listed as:

Little King
Juice 1/4 Lemon
1/4 jigger Apricot Brandy
1/4 jigger Applejack
1/2 jigger Gin

Let's assume a 2 ounce jigger so we can get closer to a 3 ounce drink. The 1/4 lemon is trickier - after some experimenting I've found that 1/3 of an ounce makes for a nicely balanced drink.

Little King

1 ounce Plymouth gin
1/2 ounce Apry
1/2 ounce Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/3 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Delicate and dry, the drink is well balanced by the slightly sweet apricot and apple notes. With the lemon juice just right, it walks the line between sweet and sour well, trending on the dry side, but only a bit.

I've also noticed that this drink opens up very well, that is, when I've allowed it to sit that long - which hasn't been often!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bramble

The Bramble was created in the mid 1980's by London's legendary bar master, Dick Bradsell, during his tenure at Fred's Club in London's Soho.

It is a simplified Singapore Sling as Dick made at the Zanzabar club, built to be a truly "British" cocktail, but you should really hear it from the man himself. You can do just that in this excellent video interview from DRÉ Masso's website:

Since its creation, it has seemed to work its way onto nearly every cocktail menu in London at some point or another, and it remains on of the city's favorite warm weather coolers. A modern classic from London's "godfather" of cocktails.


2 ounces (60 ml) Plymouth gin
1 ounce (30 ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) simple syrup
1/2 ounce (15 ml) (nice quality) cremé de mûre

Combine the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake well with ice, then strain into an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Add the cremé de mûre and stir.  Garnish with a blackberry and a slice of lemon.

For the crushed ice in your serving glass, break out the swing-away ice crusher (worth picking up on ebay if you do not have one). You can also crush your ice in a lewis bag with great results.

What we have here is a gin sour, sans the optional egg, wonderfully laced with the cremé de mûre.

The drink is very gin forward, which is why I think that Dick recommends the smooth and subtle Plymouth gin. For you gin lovers out there though, don't be afraid to use a nice bold gin as they work very well here too. (Not that I need to tell you).

It's also worth noting that for non-gin drinkers this is a very approachable drink and a great way to introduce yourself to the spirit, especially if you go with a mild and smooth gin like Plymouth.

The Massenez cremé de mûre is a very nice liqueur, and one of the better brands available here in the states. The blackberry flavor is somehow bold and subtle at the same time.

This drink really develops well as it sits, becoming more and more enjoyable as you get on with it. That is, if you can get it to last that long.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mint Julep


Julep time! Well, almost that is....

You see, after much experimenting with this venerable drink, I must say that the advice given below from the Old Waldorf Bar Days has allowed for the most enjoyable results in my opinion.

Patrons who ordered one of Johnnie Salon's world famous Mint Juleps, knew to wait at least 30 minutes after ordering before returning to collect their treasure.

1931 - From Old Waldorf Bar Days

Below is my recipe. Make one then set it aside. Then take in the history of the julep, while you wait for the alchemical application of time to complete your libation's transformation into the sublime.

The Mint Julep

2 ounces (60 ml) bourbon (Kentucky straight bourbon, best you have)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) simple syrup
Fresh mint (spearmint)
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters (optional)


1) Start with a julep cup or a well chilled highball glass.

2) In a separate mixing glass, add 2 teaspoons of (preferably a rich) simple syrup, 6-12 young, tender mint leaves from the top of the sprig, and if desired the Angostura bitters (go for it!).

3) Gently bruise the mint with a muddler and blend the ingredients by stirring and pressing for a minute or two being careful not to crush the leaves, which will release bitter inner juices.

4) Add the bourbon to the mixing glass, stir again and set aside.

5) Smash your ice to the consistency of snow in your lewis bag. Remove any chunks.

6) Pack your julep cup or chilled glass full of crushed ice and strain the contents of your mixing glass over the ice.

7) Insert a long bar spoon into the glass, cover the cup with a napkin or clean towel, and vigorously churn the contents of the glass up and down for about a minute. (Alternatively, it's great time to break out that bois lélé). Add more ice and fill to about 1/4" from the top with bourbon and repeat the churning process until the glass starts to frost.

8) Add 2 straws and fresh ice, then set the cup aside to "mellow" for at least 30 minutes. If you will be waiting longer than 30 minutes, place the glass in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours to chill.

(To pass the time, read the rest of this post or something else on my blog!)

9) When you are ready to drink, remove the glass, being careful to hold by the top or bottom rim so as not to disturb the frost. If taking out of the refrigerator, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to add an extra layer of frost. Take a nice big spring of mint, and whack it into your open palm a few times to release the fragrant oils. Cut the ends off the mint spring's stems and insert the mint into the middle of the drink so that the drinker's nose is close to the mint when they sip from the straw.



The word itself is derived from the Arabic: ماء ورد‎ (Māʾ ward) and Persian: گلاب (Golâb), meaning rose water or rose syrup.

Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (864-930), was a Hakim, an Alchemist and a philosopher. In perhaps his greatest work, a medical guide titled al-Mansuri, he introduced his Golab. It is a mixture of macerated violets and pears with added sugar which is made into a syrup...and used as a laxative.

Throughout its entire early history, the Julep was only mentioned in texts as a medicine. Some recipes included alcohol as an ingredient, but it was in the form of a base for an herbal tincture. Healers prescribed all sorts of brews under the "julab" label, well into the eighteenth century.

John Milton 1608-1674
In 1634, 26 year old John Milton, recently graduated from Cambridge with a Masters in Arts and relocated in Hammersmith, gives us the first hint of a julep taken for pleasure in Comus. (Comus, a bit ironically,  is a treatise on temperance and chastity.)

Excerpt from Comus as printed in an 1864 book on Milton's works compiled by David Masson

Portrait of Elizabeth Montagu in 1745
Checking in with the julep mid-eighteenth century, we have this letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, to the Duchess of Portland in 1741:

"I have swallowed the weight of an apothecary in medicine; all the tribe of pills, beginning from the mighty bolus, powders of all tastes, electuaries of all consistencies, juleps of all kinds; and what I am the better, except more patient and less credulous, I don’t know; I have learnt to bear my infirmities, and not to trust to physicians for the curing them."

Then we have the Hon. John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth, physician and captain in the Queens Rifles, who had this to report about the habits of the local farmers he observed during his visit to America in his title:

Tour In The United States; The Present Situation, Population, Agriculture, Commerce, Customs, Manners And A Description Of The Indian Nations V1, 1784

By the end of the eighteenth century, juleps were becoming more popular with the vulgus populi as a way to smooth out the rough edges of the harsh booze of the day by adding water and sugar. There was no mint in the julep at this point, there was not even ice.

The drink was a sling, one of the original cocktails. Basically equal parts spirit and water with a little sugar. Heat it up with a hot poker, add some nutmeg and you have a toddy. Add egg and you have a flip. Calling it a julep or sling was more of a geographical distinction than anything else.

The first mention of mint in the julep comes at the dawn of the nineteenth century in a letter from a William and  Mary student in 1802, who thought his classmates too devoted to them.

By 1816, The Old White Tavern in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, later the Greenbrier Hotel, (yes, that Greenbrier Hotel) was famous for its mint juleps. The oldest account book at the resort dates reveals that guests were ordering “julips” at a cost of twenty-five cents or three for fifty cents.

By the 1820's the mint julep, along with the sherry cobbler, was soon taking America and the rest of the world by storm. As with the sherry cobbler, it was the arrival of ice that made it possible. Sure, a little sugar, water and mint made that harsh rum, gin (hollands) or brandy go down easier. Put it in a glass with crushed ice though, and it is transformed completely.

The cobbler and the julep introduced "American Iced Drinks" to the world.

In 1839, Frederick Marryat famously wrote in A Diary in America:

The nineteenth century was the Mint Julep's heyday with the drink enjoying worldwide popularity. By the 1887 revised edition of Jerry Thomas's Bar-Tender's Guide, the mint julep's popularity had began to fade for the first of many times:

"The Mint Julep still lives, but it is by no means fashionable. Somehow the idea has gotten abroad that mint ought to be crushed and shaken up with water and whiskey in equal proportions. No man can fall in love with this mixture. Poor juleps have ruined the reputation of the South's most famous drink"


Early Horse Racing in Kentucky

Many early Lexington settlers who had relocated from Virginia brought their passion for fine horses along with them. Area residents cleared an area suitable for racing as soon as they were able. The first races, taking place around 1787 took place on Lexington's main street! 

In 1797, in response to complaints over the race's safety from concerned citizens that started as early as 1789, influential horse-owners (finally) met to set down the rules of the race and meeting at Lexington's Postlethwait's Tavern. 

With the help of Henry Clay, they organized the first "Kentucky Jockey Club". They built the Williams Race Track, a circular one-mile grass track in Lee's wood. In 1809 it was reorganized into the "Lexington Jockey Club" which continued to oversee the races until 1825.

In 1826, to give the activity a broader scope, the "Kentucky Association for the Improvement of the Breeds of Stock" was organized. This Association oversaw the races until 1933.

The racecourse was moved from Lee's wood in 1828 to a new course, "The Kentucky Association Racetrack", was created on its own property in Northeast Lexington in the area of Fifth and Race streets where it remained until 1933. It was a fenced dirt track modeled after the Union Course in New York, and was the second such course in the nation.

Main Street, Louisville KY in 1846
Around the 1830's with the arrival of the railroads, Lexington's status as the "Athens of the West" had begun to fade as they were unable to compete with the shipping lanes of Louisville, which quickly became the center of Kentucky's culture and wealth.

Horse racing in Louisville began around 1783 in Market street in the downtown area. In 1805 the races moved to an island on the Ohio River at Elm Tree Gardens. In 1827 the Hope Distillery Course was laid out and races were also held at a number of private courses. 

Churchill Downs 1901
Churchill Downs

The Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby owe their creation to Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark (grandson of William Clark of "Lewis & Clark fame").

After returning from a trip to Europe where he met with the leaders of jockey clubs in England and France, he began the development of the track to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry.

The track formally opened on May 17th, 1875 with four races scheduled.

Clark designed his three major stakes races, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap, after the three premier races in England, the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks, and St. Leger Stakes respectively.

The track was first referred to as "Churchill Downs" in 1883 in an newspaper article reporting on the derby. It  would not be incorporated as "Churchill Downs" until 1937. 

Although the track's races had been popular from the start, Clark was unable to make the track profitable and in 1894 the track was taken over by "The New Louisville Jockey Club" with Clark held on as a judge at the track.

The track continued to suffer financially. In Oct, 1902 the track's operation was taken over by a group headed by former Louisville mayor Charles Grainger, Charlie Price and Matt J. Winn. and under their leadership the track showed its first profit in 1903.

This success led to the eventual consolidating of the areas racetracks and the formation of the powerful "Kentucky Jockey Club" in 1919 which served as a holding company and also oversaw the running of two other major Kentucky tracks, Latonia and Lexington. 

The association, dissolved and re-organized in 1928 as the "American Turf Organization" as they took over Fairmont Park, Lincoln Fields and Washington Park in Illinois. At this point the organization began to sell off and close tracks. By 1947 Churchill Downs was once again on its own, still affiliated with the American Turf Association but not affiliated with any of the other racetracks.

The original steeples at Churchill Downs remain, but are dwarfed by the numerous additions over the years.


Early Cups

Traditionally, mint juleps are served in silver or pewter cups. Early cups were made with coin silver. They should be held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup, allowing frost to form on the outside. Accordingly, juleps should be served with a napkin or small linen doily.

English Beaker from early 1600's

The cups themselves are descendants of silver "beakers" that were approx. the same size as today's julep cups and were often found as part of a wealthy family's silver collection. They were commonly engraved with decorative motifs, family crests or initials, and were often presented special gifts at weddings or celebrations.

German beaker from late 1600's
According to advertising going back as far as the mid-twentieth's beaded design is copied from a "1795 design by a Kentucky silversmith".

It is possible that it was created that early, but I think it most likely that it would have been created as a beaker design, as the wealthy that could afford such pieces were not commonly drinking "juleps" in 1795. 

From the Rotarian, May 1964
Another theory, still possible, though less plausible, is that the original julep cup was designed as a prize for the winner of early Kentucky horse races.

Samual Ayres, who hung out his shingle in the mid-1780's, was the first well-known silversmith to work in Lexington.

Asa Blanchard was also a dominant silversmith in the area, but he worked from 1808-1838.

So while he was known for making julep cups among other things, if it was actually a known Kentucky silversmith that originated this design, and providing that 1795 was the correct date, it would more have likely been Mr. Ayres that came up with the "original design" for the julep cup.

Typical Kentucky Julep cup from the 1820's-30's
The majority of early julep cups seem to be dated to "circa 1850" with a few being dated to the 1820's. The practice of engraving dates on the cups did not become common until after the civil war.

Pre-Civil War cups are rare. Cups made earlier than the 1850's that I have been able to locate were either plain beakers or were adorned with straight lines at the top and bottom, not the beaded design attributed to the "1795 original".

Typical Kentucky Julep cup from mid 1800's

Mint Julep Cups and the Kentucky Derby

By the late nineteenth century, the Mint Julep was at the height of it's worldwide popularity. With horse racing being a fair weather activity, it is a safe bet that mint juleps have been traditionally enjoyed at racetracks since the early 1800's. 

The mint julep's link to the Kentucky Derby likely began as a matter of timing and convenience. Mint grew abundantly in the area, and bourbon - well, this was Kentucky - bourbon was of course readily available. So when the racetrack opened in 1875 mint juleps, being the popular drink of the day, were already being offered in the racetrack's clubhouse. 

As a wealthy Southerner, you would no doubt own a customized silver beaker. You would have called it a julep cup by then, though this was basically the same cup that had been used to celebrate momentous occasions for generations prior under a different name.

What started with the wealthy showing up with their own heirloom drinking vessel, which were especially well suited to that new "American Iced Drink", the Julep, gradually morphed into a new tradition. 

The beakers would have previously been used during celebrations to hold wine or punch. Over the nineteenth century however, the reason to own these heirloom beakers increasingly became for the purpose of making juleps, and of course to show off at the Kentucky Derby as a status piece.

In 1938 the Mint Julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and commemorative cups have been made available every year since.

Today the Kentucky Derby and the Mint Julep have become inseparable.

Thousands of mint juleps are still served every year at the Derby, held each year on the first Saturday in May, and at Derby parties around the nation.

Woodford Reserve and Early Times are sister brands produced by Brown-Forman, and under the terms of its current marketing agreement with Churchill Downs, Woodford Reserve is called the "official bourbon" of the derby. (Early Times, though the official julep whiskey, is a blend and cannot technically be called a bourbon).

Since 2006, Churchill Downs has also offered ultra-premium, custom-made mint juleps at a cost of $1000 each at the Kentucky Derby. 

These mint juleps have been served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, and were made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. The proceeds were used to support charitable causes dedicated to retired race horses.

For the 2011 Derby, Woodford Reserve partnered with Tiffany & Co. to create the most extravagant cups yet.
 One of  three 2011 Tiffany & Co. "Prestige Cups" in 24 karat gold, bidding started at $2,000 for these.

The 2011 Derby silver julep cup by Tiffany & Co, 100 were made to be sold at $1000 each.


Just about every Southern state had its own way of handling the mint, the sugar, the ice, the booze. The arguments over the one true "right way" to build a julep has been intense. Names have been called, and duels have been fought.

According to some, a mint julep is the not so much the product of a specific formula, but more that of the ritual and ceremony. Nevertheless, the ingredients have been contested with extreme vigor.

A true southern gentleman before the Civil War would have died before he'd drink vulgar corn whiskey. Brandy was the preferred choice. Holland gin had it's share of popularity in a julep. Even after the war, when standards had slipped, no Marylander would build his julep with anything but rye whiskey. Today, good quality straight Kentucky bourbon is the preferred choice by most.

Even the choice of mint has caused no end of debate, though spearmint is nearly universally preferred over any sort of peppermint. The general consensus is that the best mint for juleps is "Kentucky Colonel" (Mentha spicata).

Though there are countless family recipes as closely guarded as heirlooms as the cups themselves, and doubtless they all have their own merits, I will be presenting early recipes as appear in early cocktail books, rather than trying to sort out the distinct regional differences that have evolved over the years. I have no desire to insert myself into that long raging debate!


Let's start in 1862 with the good professor Jerry Thomas's first edition of his Bar-tender's Guide.

1862 - Jerry Thomas's Bar,Tender's Guide
OK, so we have cognac, which would have been preferred in the day over most available whiskey's. Jerry wants all kinds of fruit though, Jamaica rum and powdered sugar. For a drink "fit for an emperor".

Next up, in "The gentleman's table guide" by E. Ricket and C. Thomas from 1871. Many of these recipes were lifted directly from the pages of Jerry Thomas's book. 

1871 - E. Ricket & C. Thomas' Gentleman's table guide
1884 - we check in with O. H. Byron out of New York. 

1884 - O.H. Byron The Modern Bartender's Guide
Not a whole lot of variance on the theme laid down by Jerry up to this point.

In 1892 we see even more additions this recipe by William (The Only William) Schmidt.

1892 - William Schmidt The Flowing Bowl
Ice cream and yes, you can "put a little rosebud on your drink". Try ordering one of these at Churchill Downs on Derby Day!

We have two entries in 1895, the first from George Kappeler.

1895- George Kappeler Modern American Drinks
George says 1/2 brandy and 1/2 rum...still going with all the fruit.

1895 - C.F. Lawlor The Mixicologist

The second entry from 1895 is from C.F. Lawlor. Nice notes on the building of the drink.

1902 - Here's one from Charlie Paul:

1902 - Charlie Paul American and Other Iced Drinks
Charlie says it is fit for a king. He also says to use a combination of brandy, rum and yellow chartreuse and tops it off with a dash of claret. Fancy!

In 1908 from The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, compiled by the Hon. Wm. (Cocktail) Boothby. (Premier Mixologist no less) we have this enlightening entry:

Mint Julep.


   Fill a large goblet with fine ice and pour a jigger of cognac over it; then take several sprigs of young, tender mint and place them in a medium sized mixing-glass with a dessertspoonful of bar sugar and just enough seltzer to nearly fill the goblet, in which you have already placed the fine ice and brandy. Press the mint with a muddler until the sugar is all dissolved and the water is well flavored with the mint, strain into the goblet of ice and brandy, dash with Jamaica rum, ornament with fruits and a few sprigs of mint which have been moistened and dipped in sugar, and serve with straws.

   Great Care should be used in selecting the very young tender shoots of the mint as the old shoots and leaves have a rank bitter taste and are therefore worthless for making a delicately flavored julep.


1916- Let us see what Hugo Ensslin says about the mint julep in the last book published by a New York City bartender before prohibition.

1916 - Hugo R. Ensslin Recipes for Mixed Drinks
Here we have our first truly modern mint julep recipe. Rye or Bourbon is called for. The fruit is gone, and the Jamaica Rum is now optional.

1917 - Thomas Bullock working out of the St. Louis Country Club, the last book published before prohibition and the first by an African-American author. 

1917 - Thomas Bullock The Ideal Bartender
In 1922, out of London we get this entry from Robert Vermeire:

1922 - Robert Vermeire Cocktails How to Mix Them
Nothing really new here, just a faithful recipe for the old school way of building.

Let's jump to Paris, 1927 and the famous Harry McElhone of Harry's New York Bar fame.

1927- Harry McElhone Barflies and Cocktails
We're using whiskey, but still calling for all of the fruit.

1931 and the Old Waldorf Bar Days book.

1931 - Crockett Old Waldorf Bar Days
That's a lot of water Johnnie! Still calling for the fruit. Nice simple recipe though.

1936- Paris, the Ritz...what would Frank have suggested?

1936 - Frank Meier The Artistry of Mixing Drinks
The fruit has been reduced to lemon, which does not sound bad, and he calls for bourbon.


1948 - David A. Embury The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

Let's check in with the good Mr. Embruy before we move on. As you may imagine, he had plenty to say on the matter.


   In the whole category of drinks there is probably none that is more delicious and certainly none that has caused more violent disagreement and acrimonious debate than the Mint Julep. Should the mint be bruised or not bruised? Should it be left in the glass or removed? Should it be blended with the whisky or should it be used merely as decoration on the top of the glass? Should the drink be served with straws or not? Should it be decorated with fruit or not? If you are interested in these or other similar details about the Julep, I suggest you write to the National Distillers Product Corporation, New York City, for their excellent little booklet on Mint Juleps. If it is not out of print (it was copyrighted in 1939), I am sure they will be glad to send you a copy.

   I have, in all, probably some thirty or forty different recipes for Juleps, some good, some bad, some indifferent. I shall give you just three-my own and two others I consider excellent. It takes two hours or more advance notice to prepare the latter. The other is for those who like only a mild mint flavor. First of all, however, there are certain cardinal principals to be observed, no matter what recipe you follow, if you want to turn out a julep that is really good and that is attractively frosted.

1. Use very tall 14- or 16-ounce containers, whether of glass or of silver. Silver mugs are best because they frost better than glass, and mugs with handles-are best because they keep the warm hand from coming in contact with the outer surface of the container, thus melting the frost. If glasses are used, the thinner the glass, the better. It is well to serve paper napkins with which to handle the glasses, thereby insulating them to some extent from the warm hand. Also serve saucers or large coasters in which to set the glasses or mugs, for some of the frost will always melt and drip.

2. Unless the drink itself if to be chilled in the refrigerator, thoroughly pre-chill the glasses by leaving them in the refrigerator as close as possible to the freezing compartment for at least a half-hour. When filling the glasses, wear wool gloves or wrap the glass in a clean dry towel to keep the warm hand from coming in contact with the glass.

3. Use only fresh mint and (except as a garnish) only the small, tender leaves at the end of each sprig. Discard all stems and all the old and large leaves.

4. Use only the best-quality bourbon-the older the better. If you want to make a Rye Julep, or a Gin Julep, or a Brandy Julep, or an Applejack Julep, well and good, but you will be on your own. I am not a Kentucky colonel-in fact, I have been in Kentucky only once-but I am firmly convinced that all other Juleps are only inferior imitations of those made with good Kentucky bourbon.

5. Use sugar syrup, not dry sugar. It not only saves time but it blends with the liquor as dry sugar and water never can.

6. For the garnish use nothing but tender, young springs of mint. Rinse them well in cold water, dry with a clean towel, and while still slightly moist, dip in powdered sugar. Clip off the end of each stem just before immersing in the drink, thus allowing the juice to bleed into the liquor.

7. Use shaved or finely crushed ice-not merely cracked ice. If you have a mechanical crusher-such as the Dazey-set it for the finest crush. If you use a canvas bag and mallet, pound until the ice is like snow. Discard all the lumps.

With these warnings and advance preparations, proceed with the actual preparation of your Juleps as below indicated. No.1 is my own favorite; No.2 the time consumer; No.3 is the one with just a faint mint flavor.

JULEP NO.1 In a bar glass place, for each drink, 1 tablespoonful of sugar syrup, about a dozen tender young mint leaves, and 2 or 3 good dashes of Angostura. If you don't like bitters, leave them out, but, in my opinion, they add enormously to the character of the drink. Bruise the mint gently with a muddler and blend the ingredients by stirring and pressing gently for several minutes. Do not crush the leaves, for this releases the bitter, inner juices. Pour about 2 ounces of bourbon for each drink into the bar glass and stir all thoroughly together.
   Remove the Julep glasses from the refrigerator, pack them with crushed ice (don't let the bare hands touch the glasses) and strain the contents of the bar glass into them. With a long bar spoon churn the contents of the glasses up and down for a few minutes. Add more ice and fill each glass to within 3/8" to 1/4" of the top with bourbon and repeat the churning process until the glass starts to frost.
   Insert long straws in the glasses, decorate with the sugared mint sprigs, and serve.
   The glasses may be returned to the refrigerator after the drinks are mixed if so desired, but this is not necessary. If they are returned, insert the straws but do not add the garnish until the moment of serving. The dry cold of the refrigerator will wilt the mint sprigs if they have been added. Also it may freeze the ice into a solid mass, making it difficult or impossible to insert the straws later.

JULEP NO.2 Prepare the mint, sugar, Angostura mixture as in No.1, but do not add the bourbon. Pour half the mixture in the bottom of the Julep glass. Half fill the glass with crushed ice, firmly packed down. Add the balance of the mint mixture and fill the glass to the top with ice. Insert straws and place the glass in the refrigerator as close as possible to the freezing compartment. Leave in there for at least an hour.
   Remove the glass from the refrigerator (insulated hands again) and gently pour into it all the bourbon it will hold up to about 1/4" from the top. Return to the refrigerator for at least another hour, then remove, add garnish, and serve.

JULEP NO.3 Pre-chill the glasses. In the bottom of each glass place a tablespoonful of sugar syrup and, if desired, stir in a few dashed of Angostura.
   Distribute three or four small sprigs (not just the leaves) of mint over the bottom of the glass but do not bruise or crush. Pack the glass full with crushed ice and fill with bourbon to within about an inch of the top. Churn with a long spoon to settle the ice and begin the frosting process. Refill with ice, add enough bourbon to bring to desired height, and insert the straws.
   Place drinks in refrigerator for at least 5 or 10 minutes (a half an hour is better, add garnish, and serve.

One of the greatly disputed points about Juleps is whether or not to float a spoonful of rum on the top of each drink. To your true Kentucky colonel, this is rank heresy. It does, however, add an exotic touch which many like. I like Juleps either with or without the rum, but if you do use rum, use only a good Jamaica rum at least 8 years old and use not more than 1 teaspoonful.
   I will also make one single concession to my role of "nothing but bonded bourbon" for a Julep. Southern Comfort, which, of course, has a bourbon base, makes an excellent Julep. The ladies, in particular, will like it better than one made with straight bourbon.
   If any of your teetotaler friends attend your Julep party I fear you will have to serve them plain ice water. I know of no prohibition variety of the Julep.

Lots to say indeed! What wonderful advice too, David Embury really knew his stuff.

I love the teetotaler friend comment. Totally extraneous, and rich with Embury's dry humor.

A few notes on his details. The Southern Comfort of his day was a much different product. It was actually good! Made with a base of real bonded bourbon, it was a 100 proof liquor made with a special blend of flavoring agents and sweeteners. Some say it was a blend of bourbon and peach brandy, but I've not found anything yet in print about that. If it was blended with peach brandy, it would have been an aged eau de vie brandy, which has become extinct at this point.

All in all, it is hard to fault any of his advice or methods. Paying close attention to the finer points of preparation and serving he has presented does pay off in the end result. 

David has provided us with a very complete and accurate entry on the mint julep. As you probably noticed, I lifted many points from his instruction to create my own recommended recipe. If you are in a hurry to make a mint julep, his "NO.1 JULEP" is absolutely the way to go.


Did you make your julep in a glass because you did not have a julep cup? That no doubt worked, but a real, silver plated julep cup is worth picking up.

No need to shell out $600 and up for a solid silver cup. If you want, you can get good results with a nickel plated cup, as long as you do not have a silver cup sitting next to it to make it look bad that is!

Cocktail Kingdom's silver plated cup on the left, KegWorks nickel plated on the right. 

Cocktail Kingdom just got in their silver plated cups and there is no better deal on the net. At $24.95 each, they are a ridiculously good buy. They also have a nickel plated option coming soon.

Kegworks offers a good quality nickel plated brass cup for $18.75, though I hear Cocktail Kingdom's price will be lower and the quality should be slightly higher.

A few more plugs for CK's available tools. The Cocktail Kingdom muddler and their new julep strainers.

Their "Bad Ass Muddler" is just that, this thing is a beast and makes muddling anything so much easier. It has nearly weapon like heft and balance, is made of (very) heavy duty food grade plastic - and at only $12.95, it is a bargain that should last you a lifetime.

Their new julep strainers are also exceptional good and noteworthy. Using their ample library of vintage barware, every julep strainer in their collection was evaluated to find the perfect shape.

After painstakingly making sure that the mold was just right, they produced the strainer in 4 finishes, gold plated, silver plated, and in stainless steel with a matte finish and a mirrored finish. The stainless run $10.95, the silver plate is $15.95 and the gold plated runs $!

Wait, what about that julep strainer? Most juleps were not strained right? Do you need a julep strainer to make a julep? Well, no actually, you do not. They are great to use in any drink though and it seemed fitting to mention here, but you do not need one to make a julep.

When you make your base and muddle the mint into the simple syrup, many prefer to leave the mint in the mix so it can continue to impart flavor.

Why do they call it a julep strainer then?

In the 1820's when the iced version of the drink was first introduced, the public's dental health was not what it is today.

When a drink was served to a customer, the strainer was often left in the drink. This was to keep the ice from hitting the customer's often very sensitive teeth.

Juleps were one of the very first, if not the very first, of the iced drinks to gain worldwide popularity. So it was also a bit like calling it a "martini strainer".

The sherry cobbler, with its need to be shaken, came along around the same time or shortly after, and eventually brought along with it the popularization of the new cobbler shaker. More importantly however, the popularity of the drinking straw.

The drinking straw eliminated the need to leave the customer with the strainer, but by then the nickname had stuck and this, the original strainer design became known as the julep strainer. (The "Hawthorne" strainer design would not come about until 1889, even then, the patent application called it a julep strainer.)