At home, Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #20: Julep #1

Still working my way through The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and stumbled into Julep country. Mr Embury has an obvious passion for the Bourbon Slushy so I thought I’d try my hand.

Juleps come from a time when spirits were commonplace in drinks at any time a clock could show, and the Minted Julep offered a cool, refreshing respite while sitting on the porch, watching your workforce toil in the cotton fields. With the current Bourbon revival in full swing, this is a drink that is sure to making more of an appearance in the coming year.

Julep #1

Place your metal vessel in the freezer ahead of time, getting a good frost is key to the look and feel of a Julep and a frozen cup makes this much easier to achieve.

In a bar glass place three dashes of Angostura bitters*, 15mls of simple syrup and 12 fresh mint leaves. Give these a gentle muddle, to much vigor will taint the drink with a bitter aftertaste, so take your time and tease the oils out. And a generous measure (at least 60mls) of bourbon to this mixture and set it to one side.

Take your frozen vessel from the freezer and fill it with crushed ice. If you have a machine, use that, but beating cubes in a clean tea towel works too.

Pour in the minty bourbon, giving the ice a stir with up and down movements to ensure the correct slushy consistency and to accelerate the frosty exterior. Top the cup with more crushed ice so it’s full to the brim, or heaped like a Taiwanese snow cone. Add two short straws and a garnish of mint, the tips of the plant make the best looking garnishes. Exhale deeply and enjoy this truly superior drink.

*I’ve never come across another recipe that calls for angostura and I did think it a little odd from the outset, however, it delivers a Julep of unusual character, just as Embury promises.

P.S. I do believe this might just be the prettiest looking drink I’ve ever made.

At home, Cocktail

The Manhattan Cocktail

Few cocktails are as simply great as the Manhattan. Strong, Simple, beautifully refined at the first, somewhat less at the third. A drinking man’s drink. A simple mix of vermouth, whiskey and a dash of bitters.

Drinks this good always have a number of different histories. One of the best attributes the beverage to Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston. Lady Randolph was throwing a dinner party for Samuel Tilden, 25th Govenor of New York, Bourbon Democrat and erstwhile Presidential candidate in the 1876 Elections. Tilden out polled his opponent Haye’s in the election, but lost as 20 electoral college votes were awarded by the courts. His misfortune didn’t end there either. A short examination of the history books show that Lady Randolph was in France at the time of the dinner, pregnant.

The drink was probably invented at the Manhattan Club, where the aforementioned banquet allegedly took place, so Tilden’s relationship with the drink is not completely extinguished and the window of time is about right too, so he probably tried one, if not had it made in his honor.

Most agree that it is best made with rye, but prohibition introduced Canadian along the American Whiskey, and all are generally acceptable  these days, your own preference really being key here. A lot of people add maraschino, which I find just covers the taste of the spirit but again, to each his own. I’ve chosen Basil Hayden’s primarily as it has a high percentage of rye in the mash.

The Manhattan Cocktail

Add 60mls of Basil Hayden’s, 15mls sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters to a well iced shaking tin, stir well and strain up. garnish with a twist and luxuriate.


Dry Manhattan – substitute dry vermouth for the sweet.

Perfect Manhattan – half dry, half sweet vermouth.

Rob Roy – substitute the whiskey for Whisky

Paddy – Irish whiskey, to be sure.

Fanciulli – substitute the vermouth for Fernet Branca

Ruby Manhattan – substitute port for vermouth

Metropolitan – substitute cognac for whiskey

Cuban Manhattan – substitute dark rum for whiskey

Latin Manhattan – Perfect with light rum.

At home, Cocktail

Pink Gin

pink ginAnother old drink I’ve been enjoying lately is the Pink Gin. The drinks is made with Gin and  bitters from the House of Angostura.

Angostura Bitters began life at Angostura,  literally a narrowing of the Orinoco river that holds a city known later as the Bolivar city. The bitters were ‘discovered’ by Dr Siegert, a German following the original South American freedom fighter, Simon Bolivar. Most of the well researched sources I’ve found suggest that the good doctor probably borrowed heavily from the indigenous medicines of the area. The business moved to Trinidad and Tabago in 1876, where it has based production since.

The bitters were found to have some value as a sea sickness tonic by the Privateers and members of the British Navy, who took them back to their home port and source of Plymouth Gin.

There are many variations of how the drink should be served. From a single dash, stirred with Gin and strained up in a martini glass to four dashes, two pub shots of Gin lengthened with tonic. I would guess that the original would have held only Gin, a healthy dash and some brackish water to lengthen a beverage on a vessel that would only know ice in the arctic.

Distillation has come a long way since then and after diligently working my way through a number of variations I can say only how I like it. Unsurprisingly the recipe I have had most luck with belongs to the muse of my blog, Kingsley Amis. He didn’t probably use as much ice as I have and he always complained about squeezing the zest of citrus for oil, but I think it makes the drink. He suggests Booth’s or Plymouth, having neither, I have tried it with Tanqueray, T10, Beefeater and South. South and the export Tanqueray produced the best results.

Everyday Pink Gin.

Fill a glass with ice and dash six good belts of Angostura over the cubes. Add a good belt of Gin, the photo is a little stingy so say 50 mls. stir the mixture to soften and meld the two together. Take a postage stamp sized piece of lemon rind and twist it over the glass. rub the rim to lift the taste just a little more.

If you’re serving it to guests, a little jug of tonic or soda to handle those who don’t like their spirits quite so neat.