Mixed and Muddled
We know what you’re probably thinking: A smash sounds like it could be dangerous, and a caipirinha is exotic, at least, if nothing else. But a julep? How does the enjoyment of a julep equate to living dangerously?
For starters, the julep is a libation that has earned a passionate, devoted following, and connoisseurs take a very strong stance on how it should be made. No topic of conversation can turn the mood in a Southern cocktail lounge more quickly than how to make a proper mint julep, which combines fresh mint, bourbon, and sugar. This staple of the Kentucky Derby requires attention to every last detail, including the signature silver cup in which it is served.
Though the first mention of a julep dates back to 1400—then referred to as a syrup used to mask the bitterness of medicine—it became a quintessential American beverage with the addition of mint. Social historian Gerald Carson once mused that “none excels the harmony with which mint blends into a silver goblet filled with ice, a dusting of sugar, and several ounces of mellow bourbon.”
Muddling the mint and sugar in the bottom of a glass is key to extracting the essential oils, but a proper julep begins with crushed ice. “Not only does it help the drink chill down faster, but it helps all the flavors of the julep to infuse much quicker,” says Bridget Albert, the Chicago director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits of America.
Muddling serves as the defining technique for both smashes and caipirinhas, as well. Smashes, which emerged in the mid-19th century, muddle lemon and mint with a base spirit, while caipirinhas muddle lime and sugar with the South American spirit cachaça.
The Amazon Remedy
By Armando Rosario
- 2 oz. Veev Acai Spirit
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. agave nectar
- 1 tsp. fresh blueberries
- 4 sprigs of mint
Muddle mint in a tumbler glass. In a shaker, add blueberries, agave nectar, lime juice, spirit, and ice. Shake well and pour (do not strain) into the tumbler. Stir and garnish with mint and blueberries.
The 24-Hour Julep
By David Nepove
- 1 ½ oz. gin
- ½ oz. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum liqueur
- 2 oz. coconut water
- 4 mint sprigs
Muddle mint and liqueur in the bottom of a double old-fashioned glass. Add coconut water, gin, and crushed ice. Stir with a bar spoon until the outside of the glass frosts and leave the mint at the bottom of the glass. Top with more crushed ice. Garnish with mint and grapefruit peel.
Pineapple Tarragon Caipirinha
By Arturo Sighinolfi
- 2 oz. cachaça
- ¾ oz. agave nectar
- 5 lime wedges, halved
- ½ pineapple wheel, cut in small pieces
- 1 tarragon sprig
Briskly muddle the lime, pineapple, and agave nectar in a shaker. Add ice, cachaça, and tarragon. Shake vigorously and pour (do not strain) into a tumbler glass, removing tarragon before serving. Garnish with tarragon and pineapple.