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05.25.10 

The Hand-Crafted Mint Julep

by Warren Bobrow, Wild Table editor, food writer and cocktail whisperer

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Heat and humidity is what says “Charleston, South Carolina” in the summertime. The air, thick with the sour smell of decay from the confluence of the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers at low tide. Fort Sumpter just out of reach, where the Civil War started they say. The mood somehow becomes somber around town. People run amok for the smallest things. Heat and the unrelenting breezes will do that — it makes them crazy!

Muddle mint and sugar — be gentle ... it's not a test of physical strength.

I was working as a chef at the Primrose House and Tavern. Joann Yaeger, the owner and creative force behind the restaurant, would gather me up at the end of a particularly busy night at the restaurant, under the broad piazzas that signified the architectural history of this former mansion, to learn the art of the hand-crafted mint julep. Bourbon would be at the ready. Sterling silver julep cups, polished to a crisp shine waiting in the wings, along with ice to be crushed, sugar to be muddled and mint just picked from the garden.

Add rye whiskey, the mother's milk of the julep.

The Hand-Crafted Mint Julep

  1. Muddle fresh mint leaves and ice together to make a soft paste.
  2. Add a bit of brown sugar (sugar in the raw works best) and continue to muddle, adding more ice, and a splash or two of the good bourbon your pappy told you would make a fine drink.
  3. Add a touch more bourbon, some ice, some sugar, some mint. Never use metal on silver. I’ll rue the day that I allow a cocktail silver cup to touch metal other than silver. It’s just not done! The cup should frost up nicely when finished.
  4. Top off with another splash of bourbon. Use about 2 to 3 shots total for this drink.
  5. Garnish with fresh mint.

Thanks to Joann Yaeger for being my friend all these years.

Adding more rye, always recommended.

Get more of Warren’s musings, reviews and experience hunting at Wild Table. Or check out his newest social media inspiration: Exploring the State of Now.