The American Series, Pt. VI — Julep Jars

Our friend, Heather, invited us and a few friends recently to celebrate her birthday. She wanted to do a “Southern potluck.” I offered to bring gumbo, fried chicken, corn bread and a few other miscellaneous items. “You nut,” Heather responded. “It’s not a potluck if you make everything!”

Heather & her julep

Ultimately I settled on buttermilk fried chicken wings and mangalitsa lard-infused corn bread. And, to drink, mint juleps.

My first memory of mint julep was not from sitting on a porch in some steamy bayou in Cajun country — I’ve never even been to Louisiana. But rather from the steamy faux bayou of the Blue Bayou restaurant at Disneyland, where it’s always a balmy Southern summer night, day or night, any season. As a kid sitting at the dinner table there, minding my manners and hiding my excitement as I listened to the looping banjo riff of an animatron Cajun and watched boats full of park visitors floating lazily toward their sudden and inevitable descent into the Pirate underworld, I sipped the virgin julep. I drank slowly — it was mostly ice — knowing it would be gone too soon, holding each minty tart sip in my mouth like it was a fine wine. It was, in essence, a limeade with mint. And likely it was more the seduction of that fabricated night scene, fireflies dancing among the branches of the pretend oak trees, than the virtues of the beverage itself. But I was hooked.

Sitting now as a full-grown man amidst my own oak trees on a warm California spring evening, a rack of ribs smoking slowly on the grill, I realize that the adult version is equally seductive — the smoky fire of Kentucky bourbon tamed by confectioner’s sugar and breezy mint — and lotsa ice. I add lime to mine, both for added dimension and to remind myself of a formative experience of my childhood. Plus, it steers the drink a bit toward both the mojito and margarita, which can’t be a bad thing.

Back at Heather’s birthday, I poured the bourbon into a deep mason jar, toggled the mint, squeezed some lime, shook and poured. We ate Heather’s chili, my chicken and cornbread, watching the kids play beneath the oaks. Then I screwed the top onto the jar and took it over to the kids’ school to share with some unfortunate pals who were sitting through the interminable dress rehearsal of the upcoming school play. Some strong and just medicine for the boredom that ailed them.

Here, then, is my recipe for mint julep — submitted for the scrutiny of Southerners and Mouseketeers alike. I may not be a Southerner or a Mouseketeer, but at least I’m a Southern Californian. I like to serve my juleps in small individual mason jars. If you wanted enough for a party, you could jump up the ratios below (i.e. 2 cups water, 2 cups bourbon, 1 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, etc.), mix in a large mason jar like I did and serve into individual glasses over ice.

*   *   *

Mint julep
for each drink:

2 0z. good bourbon
2 oz. water
1 oz. lime juice
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
4 mint leaves, plus one sprig mint

(*note, you may use sparkling water in place of regular water, which will move you even closer to the mojito realm)

With a wooden toggle stick or chop stick, toggle the mint with the lime juice in a glass or mason jar. Add water, bourbon and sugar and stir to mix. Add a few ice cubes, a sprig of mint, and serve.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 00:29:23

    You have got to make me those buttermilk fried chicken wings. I LOVE chicken wings. I forgo sweets so I can eat chicken wings!! (And, sourdough bread with BUTTER!)


    • scolgin
      Apr 27, 2012 @ 01:04:22

      You got it! I made confit chicken thighs and wings the other day. One wing didn’t get eaten, so the next day I blasted it with Frank’s Hot Sauce and a bit of butter, made a quick blue cheese dressing, and had myself a single buffalo wing! The best!


  2. medrat
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 16:26:41

    great shot of Heather! total hottie. Good bourbon? ….like makers or jack?


  3. Michelle
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 23:59:10

    Glad to see the juleps turned out well for you! I’ve reconsidered my aversion to bourbon or at least to “bourbon.” Had this in Chicago earlier this week. (Though, actually, I’m pretty sure they said tequila was involved, so they must’ve changed it up since this particular article.) So, anyway, who knows? Maybe juleps are in my future.


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