Aaron Lahey
April 30, 2015 | || Cocktail Recipes ||, Apricot Brandy [2yr], Grand California | Aaron Lahey

Thirsty Thursday: The Real California Mint Julep

We have a very special weekend coming up Booze Log Readers: The Kentucky Derby! What is the Kentucky Derby without its ubiquitous cocktail, the Mint Julep? It's just another horse race. This iconic libation became the official drink of Churchill Downs in 1938, when they started selling it in commemorative Julep cups.

Although synonymous with Kentucky know, the Mint Julep was originally associated with Virginia. Originally described in 1803 as "a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning." These Virginia Juleps were thought to use brandy, rum, or rye as their "spirituous liquor," not Bourbon at all! In fact, in Jerry Thomas's 1887 edition of his bartending guide, he includes several recipes for mint juleps, none of which call for whiskey. However, in my humble opinion, no matter the cocktails origin, if you are drinking one for derby, it better have Kentucky bourbon in it.

The Real California Mint Julep is a play on Jerry Thomas' The Real Georgia Mint Julep, which uses cognac and peach brandy as its base spirits. I really liked the idea of pairing the mint and a stone fruit flavor like peach. I also like how different regions have taken this simple drink and modified it to express local character. I am going to attempt to do the same here, using a fuzzy stone fruit native to California: the apricot. Instead of simple syrup I add a bit of black-strap molasses. This drink is, after all, for the racetrack; and molasses always reminds me of the stables.

Alright, I can tell you are chomping at the bit. Here's the Recipe:

The Real California Mint Julep
2 oz Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 oz Napa Valley Distillery Apricot Brandy
1 oz Napa Valley Distillery Grand California
1 heaping barspoon Luxardo Apry Apricot preserves, or other high quality apricot jam
1 small barspoon black-strap molasses
6 large fresh mint leaves
More fresh mint to garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint with the apricot preserves and molasses. Add spirits, stir well with a bar spoon, making sure to scrape the sides of the shaker. In a julep cup or highball glass, fill to over the edge of the glass with crushed or shaved ice*. Strain the contents of the shaker over the crushed ice, through a fine sieve. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs. Watch a horse race. Repeat. Makes one 8 oz cocktail.

*All juleps will have crushed or shaved ice, that is what makes them a julep.

Enjoy the Derby everyone! Until next week!
Your ever humble, equestrian barman,
Aaron Lahey


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