Mint Julep

We booze nerds sometimes get carried away by the details of a drink’s flavor, debating the merits of finishing casks, whether vodka can or even should have terrior, and other such minutia that so quickly seem vastly important. But one thing that is often overlooked, and quite unfairly so, is aroma. A drink should stimulate at lease four of your five senses with flavor, mouthfeel, appearance, and aroma. I even enjoy the rhythm of a skillfully shaken cocktail.

Since we are only days away from that auspicious American tradition, the Kentucky Derby, we thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight one of the great aromatic cocktails, the Mint Julep. The julep is a profoundly simple drink to make and yields a wonderfully delicious refreshment.

Seen above is a traditional julep glass. While not necessary to enjoy a Mint Julep, it does help inflate your feeling of American bourgeois sophistication.

While Mint Juleps have been made with a variety of spirits in the past, Kentucky bourbon has been the standard for nearly a century. Additionally, some recipes will tell you to muddle your mint in the bottom of the glass, however this destroys the drink’s aromatic qualities and yields a sub-par cocktail. Instead, let your mint leaves float on the top of your Mint Julep and as you sip, breathe in with your nose. This way, the scent of the mint intermingles with the flavor of the bourbon as you drink.

1 oz simple syrup

3 oz Kentucky bourbon

2-3 mint leaves

Fill your glass (or silver julep cup) to the top with crushed ice. Pour over this your simple syrup, then bourbon. Stir until your ingredients are well mixed and a fog begins to accumulate on the outside of your glass (or ice on your julep cup). Garnish with mint and serve.

Traditional julep cups are made of silver so that as you mix, a thin film of ice should accumulate on the outside of your cup. This keeps your drink colder longer on a hot Kentucky afternoon. But for those not born with a silver cup in your mouth, a julep glass like the one shown above is also a great way to serve this drink.

Also, I hear Mint Juleps taste better when enjoyed beneath a giant floppy hat.

Why I do declare.


Guest Post: In Defense of Delicious

Today’s post was written by Aaron Crandall, librarian, scientist, occasional bartender, and friend of the boozehounds.

I am, by many accounts, an odd duck. I have had pseudo-theological discussions which theorized the Kool-Aid man as a symbolic Christ figure in a fight with the Planters Peanut mascot, made armor out of fence wire, and have the words “Don’t Panic” tattooed in large, friendly letters on the inside of my biceps. But while these things have on occasion earned me strange looks and lost me the respect of some normal (read: boring) human beings, in my time spent at college bars I have earned the most grief due to my fondness for that most abhorred beverage:

The “girly” drink.

Aaron Crandall: mad scientist and advocate for girly drinks

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Homemade Grenadine

One of the disadvantages of living and drinking under the thumb of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is that if the PLCB doesn’t carry it – short of taking up amateur rum running – you can’t get it. In this case, we’re talking about grenadine. Now it’s not that you can’t get grenadine, you’d actually be hard-pressed to find a PA liquor store that doesn’t stock it, but rather that every PA liquor store has the same grenadine.

Jacquin’s Cordials is a Philadelphia-based producer of bottom-shelf liquors and liqueurs, and the only brand the PLCB carries of several cocktail essentials, not least of which is grenadine. Theoretically, grenadine should be made from pomegranate juice (grenade is French for pomegranate) though even outside of Pennsylvania it can be tough to find a commercial grenadine that still is. These days most grenadine is like Jacquin’s: artificially flavored and over-sugared with so much corn syrup you could probably distill it into bourbon. Much like maraschino liqueur, grenadine is overdue for an artisanal back-to-basics overhaul.

Homemade Grenadine

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Trader Vic’s Single-Serving Brandy Egg Nog

As we’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of egg nog recipes out there. Each of them is a little different with variations in seasoning, booze, ratios, etc. But the basic elements of egg nog – egg, milk, sugar, and booze – are present in all of them. Trader Vic’s invaluable compendium, the Bartender’s Guide, lists nine different egg nog recipes. I’ve chosen this recipe, listed in the guide as Brandy Egg Nog #1, because it’s the most basic (and because most of his other recipes include Madeira, which we didn’t have on hand). In fact, this is about the simplest egg nog recipe I’ve ever found. There’s no separating eggs, no electric mixers, no cooking. And unlike most other recipes that yield a pitcher of nog, Trader Vic mixes one drink at a time.

Trader Vic's Single-Serving Egg Nog

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Alton Brown’s Cooked Nog

For those who aren’t comfortable with raw Egg Nog, or who can’t find pasteurized shell eggs, this variation on yesterday’s recipe walks you through heating your mixture just enough to kill anything that might be lurking inside. The result is a little thicker, which may be preferable if you’re fond of store-bought nog, and very tasty. I’ll admit this is the first Egg Nog we made, and the first I’ve ever had, so my basis of comparison is limited to hearsay. But having tasted this recipe, I do finally understand why people go so nuts for Egg Nog every year.

This recipe should yield enough Egg Nog for 4 or 5 party guests. Also, we doubled the bourbon that’s listed here because, well, that’s just how we roll. Continue reading

Alton Brown’s Egg Nog

One of my favorite episodes of Alton Brown’s unique cooking show Good Eats is season 9 episode 13, in which he explores egg nog and the bourbon that he puts in it. [You can find it on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2] Now, there are a lot of egg nog recipes out there, and we’ll cover a few of them leading up to the holiday, but for my money, this is one of the best.

Granted, this recipe is a lot of work compared to most everything else we post here on IPTB, but egg nog’s a party drink and this will yield enough boozed-up nog for around 6 generous servings. That’s a whole pitcher of this holiday treat that’ll make you think twice about serving store-bought nog ever again. Continue reading

Give Thanks with Gløgg!

Last week we posted the extremely delicious and seasonal Bourbon Apple Cobbler, suggesting that it’s a great cocktail to serve alongside turkey and stuffing. And it is! But in our house apartment we’re going to be trying something a little different this year. Being the renowned boozological experts that we are, we thought we’d tackle something a bit more unique, a bit more challenging, a bit more flammable.

As if the large type above hadn’t already given it away, we will be making Gløgg, a warm spiced punch which traces its origin back to Nordic winter and autumn festivities. Like many traditional tipples, recipes vary. This is also true of punches in general, so it’s not surprising to find a vast array of Gløggular instructions on the web and in books. We’ve opted for the recipe found in our handy booze bible The Bar Guide, primarily because I get to light it on fire.

As an added bonus, we’ll be posting photos on our Facebook page. So go ‘Like’ us on Facebook, and if you’re lucky you may get to see me with half my beard singed off.

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Top 5 Halloween Cocktails

Halloween is fast approaching, and while for kids this means Trick-or-Treating and enough sugar to destroy all seven of Wilford Brimley’s horcruxes, for the over-21 crowd Halloween is one of the year’s best drinking holidays. Of course this time of year is great for serving pumpkin beers and hard apple cider, but a good host should also be prepared to mix up a few of these delicious Halloween-appropriate cocktails.

5) Blackthorn

A great, low-alcohol option for lightweights and designated drivers.

2 oz sloe gin

1 1/2 Tbs sweet red vermouth

lemon twist for garnish

Combine the sloe gin and sweet vermouth in a mixing glass and stir well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish.

4) Mind Eraser

A layered drink that may just leave you Brain Dead. Check out the recipe here.

3) Satan’s Whiskers

A classic from the Savoy Cocktail Book, this one is tasty and medium-strength.

2 parts gin

2 parts dry vermouth

2 parts red sweet vermouth

2 parts orange juice

1 part Grand Marnier

1 dash orange bitters

Shake all ingredients thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass.

2) Corpse Reviver #1

Now we’re getting into the strong stuff. This antique tipple dates back to Victorian England. You can find the recipe at our previous post.

1) Zombie

Though the fruity ingredients and Tiki Bar origins may say summer, the Zombie is perhaps the apex of Halloween drinks. So strong and so complex, once you’ve had one yourself, you’ll be incapable of mixing one for your guests.

1 part white rum

1 part golden rum

1 part dark rum

1 part apricot brandy

1 part pineapple juice

1 part papaya juice

a dash of grenadine

1/2 part 151 proof rum

Combine all ingredients, except the 151 proof rum, in a shaker half full of ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a highball or Collins glass and float the 151 on top. Some recipes say to garnish with a pineapple spear and a cherry (among other fruit), but this can be optional – it’s hard to make room with all the booze in there.

Pro Tip: Another great boozy treat to serve for Halloween is a bowl of vodka gummi worms. Any gummi candy will absorb liquid if given enough time. Just fill a bowl with gummi worms and cheap vodka and leave it in the fridge over night. The next day the gummi worms will be twice as big and filled with booze. Plus they’re gooey and sticky, which only adds to the fun.

Autumnal Experiments: Homemade Hard Apple Cider

A while back we posted instructions on making your own delicious limoncello. After several highly successful batches of that wonderful and potent concoction, we developed a rather high opinion of our own homegrown booze-making prowess and decided it was time to step up our game. This time, we thought, we would tackle fermentation. We would make yeast our tiny alcohol-producing slaves. It was time to make hard apple cider.

Our finished cider, minus a few samples. Bottles from the East End Brewery.

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Bee’s Knees

One of the wonderful classic cocktails that can only be made with Applejack is the Bee’s Knees, a name that is as apropos as it is fun to say. We found this recipe in the Bartender’s Guide by Trader Vic. Ol’ Vic was the king of the west coast Tiki bar scene from the 1940s through the 60s. You know, back when Tiki bars were un-ironically, and unabashedly cool as hell. Though the debate still rages, Trader Vic is also one of two men who claimed to have invented the Mai Tai.

Now we’re going to post two slightly different recipes here. The first is Trader Vic’s recipe and you’ll notice that the volume is smaller, as was generally the case at the time. But more important than that, Vic’s recipe calls for honey. Now we tried this recipe, and found that even after vigorous shaking (we’re talking a full minute of all-out, man-on-shaker aggression) the honey ended up in a glob at the bottom of the shaker.

So after some experimentation we developed a second recipe that uses honey syrup. This is the same as simple syrup, but made with honey rather than sugar. (Find out how to make simple syrup here.) Due to the change though, we shifted the proportions of the recipe and that’s what we’ve posted second. The result is an excellent cocktail that balances sweet and tart, with a hint of apple in the finish. The perfect cocktail for the transition from summer to autumn.

Trader Vic’s Bee’s Knees

1 oz applejack

1 oz lemon juice

1 tsp honey


Boozehound Bee’s Knees

1 part applejack

1 part lemon juice

1 part honey syrup

Combine all the ingredients into a shaker half filled with ice and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Pro Tip: Be sure to make your honey syrup from equal parts honey and water. It’s easy for this cocktail to end up overly tart.

The Bee's Knees