Monday, March 10, 2008

Like Mint Tea, But Better...

Today was by far the best weather that DC has had in a long while. Warm enough to be pleasant, with clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. When I got home after work, I spent at least 30 minutes sitting on the porch outside reading a book and enjoying the wonderful weather and the smell of burning wood from a neighbor's fireplace. There are few things that say summer to me more than the flavor on mint (yeah, I know it is at best Spring, but from the perspective of Winter they both seem so similarly... pleasant).

Mint Julips
Originally uploaded by Neenabeena

A mint julep was a necessity to complete the feeling of nascent Spring. I was first introduced to a mint julep by Neen's father (Alabama born) - he showed me how to crack the ice and bruise the mint. My own mixtures tend to be a softer than his, to my palate the perfect mint julep really is related to mint tea (another favorite of mine). The sugar, far from hiding the flavor of mint, actually accents it. The ice and water make the mix a little lighter on the alcohol, taking away some of the over-powering flavor of bourbon, giving the drink a complex flavor.

This is a very easy drink to make, but it is very important that when bruising the leaves one does not break them open (this will give the drink a more astringent character).
1. Bruising: put about 1-2 Tbsp mint leaves (cleaned) into the glass. Add about a teaspoon of water. Using a sturdy spoon, press the mint leaves against the side of the glass. You just need to bruise the leaf (it should turn a slightly darker color when bruised), so don't press so hard that you break the skin of the leaf.
2. Crack ice. This can be done with a machine (if you would prefer), or one can simply crack the ice by holding the ice in one hand and hitting it with the spoon (hold the spoon at the bottom of its handle - the motion is in the wrist).
3. Add the Bourbon. (Proportions here are going to depend on the person - I tend to cover the leaves and then add about half to three-quarters as much bourbon as the volume of the covered leaves.)
4. Add sugar to taste.

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