Book Review, Drinks

177

Mint Julep [from The Art of American Whiskey] (V)

There’s something about summer that makes cocktail hour come sooner and last longer. You step out of work, walk into a pub, and order a beer at 5:03 and no one thinks anything of it; in fact, you’re not the first one to arrive– not by a long shot. You walk into a bar on a Tuesday night and you have to squeeze in between the hipsters to get a seat. No one looks at you funny for ordering a second watermelon tequila smash. Or a third. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’ve been getting very into making festive post-work cocktails lately, so just stay tuned.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think I like developing cocktail recipes more than food ones. Flavor combinations are more delicate. There is the finest line between a good cocktail and a¬†great¬†cocktail. Sure, I can throw a shot of this and two fingers of that and some muddled fruit in a highball glass and it’ll be pretty darn good. Add a squeeze of lime and maybe it’ll be really good. But a great cocktail needs no embellishment, save for a few herbs or citrus peel. Which brings me to my next point: the mint julep.

No, no, I did not invent the mint julep (duh,) but I am using it as a benchmark for my cocktail developing from now on. It’s so simple, but tastes truly amazing. It seriously makes me want to forget the time in my life when I thought a good cocktail was cheap rum mixed with cream soda. Oooof. Anyway, I’ve been digging¬†bourbon lately. Like, having-a-nightly-glass kind of digging¬†it. And when Noah Rothbaum‘s new book, The Art of American Whiskey¬†arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago, I knew I was about to dive into a full-on love affair. Whiskey is rad. We all know it. Even if you don’t like the taste of it, you know it’s pretty cool. I’ve met many people who claim to be whiskey aficionados –the amount of times I’ve had to listen to mansplaining about which scotch is superior makes my head hurt– but Noah¬†actually knows his stuff. He travels¬†his way through history chapter by chapter, starting with “The Late 1800s and Early 1900s,” “Prohibition,” and “Life After Temperance;” all the way up to “The Swinging Sixties,” “The Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, aka the Dark Ages,” and “The New Golden Age” (right now.)¬†He details political and economic implications behind whiskey (and liquor in general) during the various decades, as well as how the drinks fit into the social climate of the times. Each chapter¬†features cocktail recipes from various contributors that were originally developed during the corresponding time period. Along the way, he includes¬†images of label art of the top 100 iconic whiskey bottles– easily my favorite part of the book. The recipes take a bit of a backseat to the historical notes, but that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it was going to after the first chapter. It’s definitely¬†much more of a coffee table book than a standard cookbook, but¬†that shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up a copy. Grab the book, make a cocktail, then enjoy it while you read and work your way towards becoming a¬†whiskey buff.

The mint julep hails from the 1800s, and was originally made with the grape-based brandy cognac. But when cognac stock was depleted from pests attacking European grape crops, bartenders were forced to switch to whiskey and gin. I made¬†a¬†julep with cognac after the real thing and it just doesn’t hold up. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Mint Julep (from The Art of American Whiskey, contributed by Allen Katz; makes 1 cocktail)

8 fresh mint leaves + sprig for garnish
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 ounces bourbon

Muddle¬†mint, sugar, and a small amount of crushed ice in a julep cup (I don’t have one, but¬†this one¬†is now on my wish¬†list. If you don’t have one either, a highball glass or mason jar work just fine.) Add more crushed ice to fill half the cup, then add the bourbon. Stir until the cup becomes frosty, then add more ice to fill the cup all the way to the top. Garnish with mint and drink with a straw (that crushed ice gets everrrrrrywhere.)

NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!

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Drinks

169

Coffee Ice Old Fashioned (V)

So yesterday I had my last classes at Smith. The final ten minutes of my very last class consisted of listening to people read a scene from the short play I’ve been working on this semester. I’ve written a lot of short scenes before, for this course and when I took playwriting I two years ago, but I’ve never done a fuller-length piece. I wanted to actually commit to something this semester. I wanted to make something that wasn’t food or a drawing, because I’ve made a whole lot of those and it’s time to try new things already! I wrote a 37-page play, and apparently it was not bad at all! Spoiler: I’m very self-conscious about my writing. About my place as a person who does any academic work, honestly. I guess I know the source of that problem, and I probably shouldn’t let it get to me, but that’s not a story for the blog- at least not today, anyway. This is a meandering way of commenting on how pleasantly surprised I was to hear people laugh at the lines I wrote to be funny; to hear someone actually refer to one of my characters’ actions from a scene read earlier this semester; to listen to my professor’s encouraging comments about words I wrote for the sole purpose of just making something. It was kind of a beautiful way to finish my work here. #feelings, amirite? Class ended and I left the theatre building (geesh, how many times have I done that this year?) and had one of those weird moments where I stopped and realized that was it. I’m done. Okay, technically, I still have to write five more pages of a paper and finish up a few other things, but really, I’m done. Done with college.¬†I honestly don’t know whether to cry with joy or genuine fear. Mostly it doesn’t feel real at all. So while I’m figuring out how to feel about the fact that I graduate in -count ’em- seventeen days and then find my way back to Jersey, let’s talk about this cocktail I made last night.

If you’ve been a reader of Spices and Spatulas for a while, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a big fan of coffee. A true caffiend, as I’ve mentioned. While deep down I know that the best way to start the morning is with a big glass of water, I never do it. If I don’t have coffee within the first 15 minutes of being awake, I start to get a little grumpy. If I don’t have more later in the day, I’ll start to get a really terrible headache. Which, honestly, is actually probably really bad and I should work on weaning myself off it a bit. But that day is not today. Today, we will be putting coffee in liquor (again) and everyone will be buzzing out of their skin and it’ll be delicious. PS-¬†I know the brown ice isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but just accept it; it tastes AMAZING. Also, yes, I did I fact use a $1 nip of Jim Beam because I am classy.

Cocktail (serves 1)

3 coffee ice cubes (see below)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
2 dashes bitters
orange slice

Make the coffee ice cubes:¬†Brew a strong pot of coffee and let it cool to room temperature. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. If you’re really on your cocktail game you should make them in this tray; much prettier than the tiny ice. You’ll only need 3 for this drink, so throw the rest in a freezer bag and to cool iced coffee without it getting watery! (and maybe make yourself a frozen mocha¬†or throw a few into a milkshake.)

Make the cocktail: Put a¬†rocks glass in the freezer.¬†Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 tablespoon water and set aside. Remove the glass from the freezer and place¬†3 coffee ice cubes in the bottom of it. Pour the sugar mixture over the ice, then do the same with the Bourbon/Rye and bitters. Swirl it all together and garnish with an orange slice, adding a little extra squeeze of juice if you so choose. Sip slowly for a mellow but intense buzz, sip fast if you’re tryna get weird. Either way, you just got a bit¬†closer to being¬†this guy.

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