Friday, March 29, 2013

Mint Julep Season

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There comes a time in the early spring that the old julep cups get taken off the top of the cabinet and polished. Not just shined - but really given a thorough going-over. By polishing them deeply it shows care and concern for this well used pair of julep cups. I bought them in New Orleans at a culinary antique shop on Royal Street. Even in the mid-80's they cost me a pretty penny. Evidently, these cups are traceable to the 1930's. They're made of sterling silver over a solid copper core. If you know about heat/cold transfers, the copper makes the silver frost up very quickly and then the deep cold is captured deeply inside your memory. The first time your fingers stuck to the silver metal, the pungent smell of the mint - the power of the bourbon whiskey - the tang of the raw cane sugar - it's all too delicious to imagine.

Sure, I've made a few mint juleps in these venerable cups this year, but the cups were not showing their inner luster until I gave them a thorough and deep cleaning. The silver was dull. Some would say they were tarnished. Badly tarnished at that with dark black spots and yellowing areas in others. 

My Southern friends would rue the day that a Yankee like myself would even own a set of fine mint julep cups, then let them tarnish to such a state of wretched physical affairs.

I apologize in advance for my boorish behavior towards the cups and their auspicious history.

I took them outside into the glimmer of spring sunshine, a bucket of cool water at the ready and prepared my work surface with couple clean bar cloths. Paper towels seem to be the best at the heavy tarnish removal; I didn't want to scratch them by using a toothbrush. Then there is the elbow grease necessary to clean the many layers of dark stain. I think much of this has to do with the humidity in the house. I like to use baking soda and water made into a paste for removing the stains from these nearly 80 year old julep cups marked Sheriden - Silver over Copper.

When you stir freshly picked spring mint with crushed, filtered water ice, kiss it with the sweetest Bourbon like Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey and then sprinkle Demerara Sugar over the frosty layers of bourbon, sugar, ice and mint, magic happens. First the cup will get cold in your hand. Next it will begin to show frost. The next thing that happens is the silver will get sticky to the touch from the cold. White frost will appear on the outside of your Julep cup, the thicker the frost the better because you want to keep your drink icy cold.

You are becoming one with your cup. Your drink will emulate every perfect mint Julep made in that same cup since the first time the sweet flavor of the mint folded elegantly into the char of the Four Roses Small Batch Whiskey and the sweetness of the sugar tapped against your tongue. You've made the perfect drink for spring and summer… And since you control the amount of alcohol in the drink, how smashed you become is completely up to you!

The Classic Mint Julep

I like my Julep cocktails strong, I suggest adding more sugar if you like yours sweet and strong, I don't advocate using simple syrup instead of raw sugar. Simple syrup doesn't release the oils from the mint the same way as rough sugar does.

• 3 oz. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
• Crushed (Mavea Filtered Water) ice (I use a hand-cranked ice crusher)
• Demerara Sugar (Sugar in the Raw works fine)
• Freshly picked Kentucky Colonel Mint
• A lovely Sterling Silver/Copper Core Mint Julep Cup - or vessel of your choice

In a highly polished Sterling Silver (Copper Core) Julep Cup:
1. Add a splash of the Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon.
2. Add a bit of ice and some mint leaf, then some more bourbon….
3. Stir with a wooden chopstick or small wooden spoon… NEVER mix with a metal spoon..  Stainless against silver is very unpalatable.
4. Continue to add mint, sugar, ice, and Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon until drink is complete and well frosted.
5.Garnish with a sprig of the mint and sip to the gentle charm of the South in the early spring!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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