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Behind the Bar: Summer Juleps

Contributed by

More than two hundred years ago, somewhere in North America, cognac, peach brandy or unaged whiskey was mixed with sugar and mint, and served on a mound of snowy ice for the first time. The resulting Mint Julep was a chilly masterpiece that conquered the sweltering dog days of summer.

But this frosty invention was far from the world’s only foray into cooling beverages. Alexander the Great dug pits during a military campaign and filled them with snow to chill wine for his soldiers. And the Sicilians borrowed an idea from the Arabs and found relief from the heat by making flavored ices.

The lore surrounding the Mint Julep is legendary in its own right and usually involves antebellum mansions, slavery and the leisure class in Georgia and Virginia. However, cocktail historian and Liquor.com advisory board member David Wondrich points out that it wasn’t just a Southern tipple: Juleps were actually a favorite in New York and wildly popular in the hottest months.

There are many recipes for the drink, which change dramatically from place to place and from generation to generation. Today, the bourbon version is most widely preferred and has become a requisite part of Kentucky Derby festivities.

I would also encourage you to try my Rainbow Julep, which calls for both bourbon and apricot liqueur. Or my Cognac Julep, featuring the delicious combination of rum and cognac. Either one will help you fight the summer’s worst.

Rainbow Julep

Contributed by Dale DeGroff

  • 4 or 5 Mint leaves
  • .5 oz Marie Brizard Apry Apricot Liqueur
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • Garnish: Mint sprigs
  • Glass: Highball

In a mixing glass, muddle the mint and apricot liqueur. Add the bourbon and strain into a highball glass filled with finely crushed ice. Stir until the outside of the glass frosts. Garnish with two mint sprigs. Let the drink rest until a layer of frost has formed on the outside of the glass.

Cognac Julep

Contributed by Dale DeGroff

  • 4 or 5 Mint leaves
  • .5 oz Merlet Créme de Pêche
  • 2 oz Perrier Ferrand 1840 Cognac
  • Brugal Extra Viejo Rum
  • Garnish: Mint sprig
  • Glass: Julep

In a Julep cup, muddle the mint and crème de pêche. Fill three-quarters of the way with finely crushed ice and pour in 1 ounce of the cognac. Stir until the outside of the cup begins to frost. Fill with more crushed ice, add the remaining 1 ounce of cognac and stir briefly. Top with a splash of rum and garnish with a mint sprig. Let the drink rest until a layer of frost has formed on the outside of the glass.

Master mixologist Dale DeGroff is the author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.

Series & Type: TrendsBehind the Bar
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