It’s hard to find a drink more closely associated with afternoon quaffing in the sunshine than a Mint Julep. An herbaceous mix of spirits, sugar, and mint, the iconic beverage is a consummate drink for early hours, whether it’s while taking in a horse race or just gathering with friends on a lawn or patio. However, the bourbon in it can pack a mean punch, and keep you from enjoying more than one or two without the risk of getting seriously buzzed. Luckily, bartender veteran Alex Day, of the lauded cocktail bar Death & Co in New York City (amongst other bars), has an answer to the problem of Julep-driven over-intoxication: He makes a variation with a white wine, albariño.
This Spanish and Portugese varietal is bright and crisp, with plenty of fruit notes balanced by generous tart acid. Day originally used Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio in his take on the Julep, and the wine’s assertive acidity is smoothed by a bar spoon of creme de peche, which stands in for the simple syrup that normally sweetens the drink. If creme de peche isn’t immediately available, Day advises that any good quality peach liqueur can work. Either way, it gives the drink a subtle but desirable hint of stone fruit. Similarly, any nice bottle of albariño will do the trick in the drink, and the wine is generally on the affordable side of things, making it suitable for mixing in drinks.
One of the benefits of this take on the summertime classic is the lower proof. Unlike with a drink made from bourbon—especially higher-proof bourbon like ones bottled in bond or barrel proof—having a few of these while relaxing on a porch or garden won’t knock you out. It’s even less alcohol than even a standard glass of wine, with only three ounces of albariño and a spoonful of peach liqueur.
While some Mint Julep recipes call for muddling the mint in the glass, this one only requires a large bunch of fresh mint to garnish the drink and lend it the aromatics. Because of this, it’s best to use a short straw and really get your nose into the leaves as you drink it (or just sip straight from the glass). A metal Julep cup generally has a wider mouth than most cocktail glasses, making it easier to get a mountain of crushed ice and a big bunch of mint in the drink. However, a double rocks glass works just fine if that’s what’s on hand.
- 3 ounces albariño wine (such as Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio)
- 1 teaspoon creme de peche (or high-quality peach liqueur)
- Garnish: mint sprigs
Add the albariño and creme de peche to a Julep or double old fashioned glass.
Add lots of crushed ice and garnish lavishly with mint.