Tagged: cocktail

Ten Years Later… This is Still Not a Mint Julep!

Tomorrow is the first Saturday of May, meaning that some horses will be running in, like, the 945th annual Kentucky Derby. The Derby is such an all-consuming affair for the city of Louisville that the University of Louisville actually schedules its entire academic year around it. And beyond the confines of Churchill Downs, there are a bunch of traditions associated with it, including…

  • Derby Pie. A chocolate and walnut tart that can only be marketed by that name by a bakery in Prospect, Kentucky. A lawsuit awaits those try to do so surreptitiously.
  • Burgoo. A stew of beef, chicken, pork, and vegetables that is not served in Bushwick in the summer.
  • Mint juleps. A refreshing cocktail made from bourbon whiskey (Kentucky’s most popular export), sugar, and—yes—mint.

While the recipe for Derby Pie is a closely guarded secret and Burgoo apparently derives from throw-everything-in-a-pot approach to cooking, a mint julep is elegantly simple: three ingredients, a cup, and crushed ice.

Over the years, I’ve had various concoctions called mint juleps. The worst one I had was in 2004. A bar in Brooklyn was serving them for the Derby, but the bartender was using crème de menthe to make them. Gross!

Around 2006, just a year after YouTube became a thing, a video began to circulate that showed how to make a mint julep. It became popular because of how horribly wrong the drink was being made: “a mojito with bourbon, instead of rum” was the guiding philosophy.

Ten years later, this video still screams “made in Miami!”

The mint julep is to cocktails what playing first-base is to baseball: it’s easy to do, but it’s hard to do well. I once thought about making a mint julep with unoaked rye whiskey. By far, the simplest and best executed approach to making a mint julep is Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe. Morgenthaler, who alerted the world to the “mojito with bourbon” video, described a mint julep like an “old fashioned with mint instead of bitters.”

Although I’m a little less excited about the julep cup frosting before his very eyes, I agree that this is how a mint julep should be made. No limes, no sour mix, and definitely no crème de menthe.

Mint Julep
Morgenthaler’s “old fashioned with mint instead of bitters” is a great way to conceptualize a mint julep.

Ball Buster Margarita

Here’s a margarita I made for the Ball Busters team-building party last night. It was a hit. I wanted to use blueberries and basil from the Union Square farmers’ market, but I had run low on time and relied on the local supermarket instead. (Ironically, the basil and blueberries were significanlty less expensive at the greenmarket than at the supermarket when I went to check today. Go figure.)

Making the margarita requires two steps.

Sweet-Sour Mix

  • 12 ounces of fresh lime juice
  • 10 ounces of fresh lemon juice
  • 10 ounces of sugar

Combine and heat lemon and lime juice in a saucepan and add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour into a quart-sized mason jar (or something similar). Refrigerate until cool.


  • 4 ounces of sweet-sour mix
  • 3 ounces of silver tequila
  • 1 ½ ounces of triple sec
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 8 blueberries
  • 1 ounce of agave nectar

Add sweet-sour mix, basil, and blueberries in a cocktail shaker and muddle ingredients together until you’ve “squished” all of the berries. Add tequila, triple sec, agave nectar and ice to the shaker. Shake together. Pour into a twelve-ounce glass filled with crushed ice.

Garnish glass with a couple of blueberries and a single basil leaf.

Hot Kentucky


Maybe it’s because Sarah left for a ten-day trip, but I couldn’t help feel drawn to a beverage offered at a local Brooklyn art gallery. It’s called the Hot Kentucky. The contents for the beverage were listed on a chalkboard, and on a summer day, it sounded like a splendid beverage.


The lemonade–ginger–cayenne pepper was pre-made at the gallery, but if I were to reconstruct this recipe, I’d do something like this.


  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups of water

Combine, heat, and stir lemon juice, sugar, ginger, and cayenne pepper until sugar and pepper dissolve. Transfer lemon-ginger-pepper syrup to a half-gallon pitcher or mason jar and add water. Chill until lemonade is cold. Tick-tock-tick-tock…


  • 1 ½ ounces of bourbon
  • 3 ounces of spicy ginger lemonade

Combine and shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lemon wedge. Enjoy.

Happy National Mai Tai Day

Last year, there was some hoopla about National Mai Tai Day, but this year there seems to be a lot less enthusiasm about marking the day with this quintessential Polynesian cocktail.

The Mai-Tai

While there are a ton of recipes for making a Mai Tai, I adapted the version from my dusty copy of Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s and Party Guide.


  • 2 ounces of rum
  • 1 ounce of triple sec
  • ½ ounce of grenadine
  • ½ ounce of lime juice
  • ½ ounce of orgeat syrup

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a highball glass filled with crushed ice.

I had to make a few substitutions. As I learned to make my own grenadine earlier this year, I was in the process of reducing the cherry juice into a syrup but having left it unattended for too long, it literally caught on fire. Instead of buying more cherry and pomegranate juices, I bought some fancy grenadine from my local gourmet grocer.

Orgeat syrup can be very hard to find, even in a city like New York. I learned that a couple of stores in Manhattan have this precious nectar, but I was not in the mood to schlep to the city to get a $8 bottle of syrup. Instead, Sarah found that one can approximate orgeat syrup by mixing one part almond extract, which one can find in just about any grocery store, and eight parts simple syrup. I gave it a try, and it comes close to mellowing out the harsh rum flavor.

Cheers, everyone!

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Summer Cocktail: Green Tea Lemonade

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and the Summer Liquid Concoction Laboratory® has reopened. Following our earlier experiments in crafting a iced coffee for those hot-and-humid mornings and bourbon limeade for the evening, all of which are served in Mason jars, we have developed a new Green Tea Lemonade.



  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup (4 fluid ounces) lemon juice
  • 3½ cup (28 fluid ounces) brewed, unsweetened green tea
  • 3 cup (24 fluid ounces) water

First you need to brew some green tea. I was cheap and simply brewed four bags of Trader Joe’s Green Tea ($1.99 per box of 48 bags). That yielded 32 ounces of hot green tea, You need only brew for about 3½ minutes.

Add ingredients into a half-gallon (64-ounce) jar, such as a big Mason jar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. (If you brewed the tea like I did, you’ll have plenty of hot water that will make it easier to dissolve the sugar.) Refrigerate for about two hours, or overnight, until it is comfortably cold.

Serve over ice into—what else?—a pint-sized mason jar.

Cocktail: Madame Shirley


Earlier this week Saveur published a Whiskey Cocktails microsite, which listed over a dozen whiskey recipes, primarily culled from a September 2011 story on handcrafted whiskey cocktails. One of the more approachable recipes was a Lady Shirley. It is a bourbon drink with grenadine, lemon juice, and soda water. I thought that it would be a nice Sunday project to make my own grenadine (and whiskey cocktail).

The Saveur recipe recommends using Employees Only grenadine, which is a hand crafted mix of pomegranate and spices. I would have liked to use that because most popular grenadines, such as Rose’s, consists mostly of corn syrup. The only way to get this grenadine is to place a Fresh Direct order and wait for delivery, but I wanted to have this cocktail today. I had to make my own grenadine.

I had never made grenadine before so I searched online for a variety of recipes. The best recipe was by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, which consists of ingredients I could easily get (fresh pomegranate juice and sugar) and a couple I could not (orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses). Although I wasn’t sure how to substitute for the missing ingredients, I liked his recipe because it was didn’t require you to reduce the pomegranate juice to a thick syrup. Instead of the orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses, I thought I would use reduced black cherry juice to thicken it and give it a different level of tartness.

Here’s what I used for the grenadine:

  • 2 cups of fresh pomegranate juice, either fresh squeezed, according to Morgenthaler’s instructions, or unsweetened juice from concentrate (such as Pom or R.W. Knudsen).
  • 2 cups of sugar. I was running low so I used a mix of evaporated cane juice and Demerara brown sugar.
  • 4 ounces of black cherry juice. I again used R.W. Knudsen.

As Morgenthaler writes, you basically only need to heat the pomegranate juice enough to melt the sugar. I heated the juice for a few minutes in a saucepan. After the juice had become warm, I transferred juice and combined it with the sugar in a quart-sized Mason jar. I then heated the cherry juice in the same saucepan, reducing it by half (about ten minutes). I emptied the cherry syrup to the mason jar, shook it, and chilled it until it was “refrigerator” cold. In retrospect, I would have squeezed an orange, enough for a splash, to give it a different citrus flavor.

Once my grenadine chilled, I then made the cocktail.

  • 2 ounces of bourbon. Cheap is fine: I used Evan Williams.
  • 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’s about a half a lemon’s worth.
  • 1 ounce of my grenadine.

Combine the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and then pour into a glass full of crushed ice. Add a lemon wedge, not pictured, for garnish. This recipe is a little different from the aforementioned Lady Shirley because I used only half as much lemon juice (I hadn’t bought very many lemons today), and I did not finish the drink with soda water because I had used so much crushed ice which melts quickly and “dampens” the cocktail.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

(Via Saveur and Jeffrey Morgenthaler.)

Cocktail: Unoaked Rye Julep


It’s been a few months since I picked up a bottle of unoaked rye whiskey in Portland, and yet the bottle is almost full. Unoaked whiskey is just a fancy name for bottled moonshine and as such, it is much harsher on our palettes, which are accustomed to the mellow finish of aged whiskey. We tried substituting the unoaked rye for other ryes in our favorite beverages, but the taste of rye overpowers just about any mixer we tried. For example, ginger beer usually can tame any spirit, and usually goes well with any whiskey, but this rye was way too much for the ginger beer to handle. We tried making citrus cocktails, but it tasted like putting lemon or lime on a piece of rye bread, and it was not a good flavor.

Today, after some experimenting, I think I found a way to sip this “rye lightning.” Basically, you have to make it into a julep, but instead of adding mint, use basil! Thanks to Saveur’s Basil Julep recipe for the idea.

  • 6 sprigs of basil
  • 1 ounce of simple syrup
  • 3 ounces of unbaked rye whiskey

In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the basil and the simple syrup. Add whiskey and shake gently. Pour through your cocktail shaker’s strainer into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Enjoy.

The first thing that is readily apparent is the color. It almost looks like chartreuse. As you’ll find out, the rye is almost completely neutralized, although the combination of basil and rye yields a very curious mixed flavor. Mint might work a little better, but I only had the basil on hand so that’s what I used.

Basil Julep
The strength of the basil and the un-aged rye whiskey was a little too harsh. This drink is better made with aged Irish Whiskey.

Summer Cocktail: Dark and Stormy


Sarah and her mom just came back from Bermuda, and they came back bearing gifts. They brought back the necessary ingredients to make a Dark and Stormy, which was one of my favorite summer beverages. I am not actually certain how to make it, but now I get a chance to try, right?

And, of course, leave it to Goslings to market their ginger beer as party of a Stormy package.

Summer Cocktail: Inflight Madras

Cross Country Madras

En route to LA at the moment, and it’s been a while since I’ve had the inflight cocktail off the business class menu on United. I was a big fan of the Sunrise Sunset cocktail that was around last year, and I even made it a few times at home. Although the Delta version with bourbon was much better.

The current cocktail on the JFK-LAX route is the Cross Country Madras, which is a tweaked version of a madras. (A madras is basically vodka, and equal parts cranberry and orange juice.) The inflight version replaces the vodka with dark rum, and has a bit of a kick. Let’s just say that I slept pretty soundly once airborne, which was great given that I was on the 6:30 AM flight and barely got four hours of sleep the night before.

Summer Cocktail: Bourbon Limeade Cooler

Okay, so I need a better name for this, but I had a bag of limes that were going bad so I thought I’d create a new cocktail for these hot summer days. (Thankfully, summer is here!)

The Bourbon Limeade is basically, as the name implies, a bit of bourbon, limeade, and a splash of soda to make it more refreshing. (I use one of those SodaStream machines to make the soda water.)

First, you need to make the limeade, which is really easy. The recipe below will yield 8 cups (64 oz.) enough to fill one of those huge Mason jars. To do so, mix…

  • 1 cup of lime juice (about 6 juicy limes)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 cups of water

Actually, as far as summer beverages go, this is a pretty solid drink. It’s safe for all ages.

But you want something with a bit of a kick, so let’s make it more adult, shall we?

In a pint glass (or pint-sized Mason jar, pictured here), gather the following ingredients:

  • Four ice cubes Crushed ice
  • 2 oz. moderately priced bourbon (I used Jim Beam and it was fine.)
  • 6 oz. homemade limeade
  • 2 oz. soda water, seltzer, club soda, etc.

Add crushed ice cubes to glass, pour bourbon and limeade over ice. Mix together ingredients. (Since I had a Mason jar, I merely shook the ingredients together with the cap on.) Add soda water. Stir gently to finish the mix.


p>Did you like it? Any suggestions for a variation?

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