Julep season — as if you needed a reason for juleps — is still with us as long as there are outdoor celebrations. In Nashville, that means as long as the weather is pleasant enough for wearing a seersucker suit and standing outside for a couple of hours.
A good julep is (to me) the perfect drink: bracingly cold and strong, lively with mint, disappearing down the throat with a last whisper of sweet.
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery held a Facebook contest last week for best julep, and on a whim I entered the formula I've been making for about 18 years.
The recipe is simple, but like many simple things, it isn't easy. The cup must be metal. The ice must be crushed. The mint must be spearmint. It's critical to use good whiskey, like Nelson's Belle Meade Bourbon. The high rye content is what I love about it.
The batch must be small, as making juleps in bulk impairs the quality. Maybe eight at a time is the maximum manageable batch. (I could write a whole other article on why this is so, and if you're interested, we'll discuss it in the comments.)
Supported by such exhaustive testing and research, my julep won a lovely package of highball glasses and a cap from Nelson's Green Brier, thankyouverymuch.
Posting it here for all to enjoy, because it's not a secret, it's just a pain in the neck. That's quality for you — ask any restaurateur.
So invite over seven friends for a porch-or-patio party. Tell them to dress for the weather. Buy some cheese straws and if you have nothing else to celebrate, toast the longest, mildest spring in Nashville memory.
Y'all Come Over Julep
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 to 10 spearmint leaves
1 ounce good quality bourbon or rye whiskey
1/2 ounce good quality bourbon or rye
Spoon the sugar into a metal cup that holds 8 to 12 ounces. Add the mint and use a muddle or spoon to bruise the mint all over but don't mash it to a paste.
Add 1 ounce of the whiskey and swish or stir to dissolve most of the sugar. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Plunge a spoon into the center and agitate it up and down 10 times. Top with the remaining whiskey. Agitate a couple more times.
Garnish with a mint leaf, if you're taking a picture. Get a cocktail napkin — you'll need it when the glass frosts over. Makes 1 lovely drink.