Though the threat of a national bourbon shortage points to a recent surge in the whiskey’s popularity, there are those detractors who think of it as a heavy, cloying sort of liquor. Cutting the traditional Mint Julep with an unorthodox kick of Jalapeño is the perfect answer to their qualms. Recipe via chef Edward Lee (who has never met a bourbon he didn’t like), from his stunning new cookbook Smoke and Pickles.
Mint juleps are a part of the Derby celebrations, and everyone partakes in the ritual. But, to be honest, most juleps I’ve had are overly sweet, cloying, and hard to finish. This is my twist on the julep: It’s minty and verdant, with a kick of spice at the end that makes you want another sip. Serve this in pewter or silver julep cups, and drink it outside on a porch sheltered by a magnolia tree. Makes 1 4 to 6 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish 1 ounce Jalapeño Simple Syrup (recipe follows) Crushed ice 2½ ounces bourbon Splash of club soda A jalapeño slice for garnish
Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup, add the simple syrup, and gently bruise the leaves with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Add enough crushed ice to fill the cup almost two-thirds of the way. Add the bourbon and stir gently, then fill the cup almost full with more crushed ice. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with the mint sprig and slice of jalapeño and serve immediately.
Jalapeño Simple SyrupThis syrup keeps forever in the fridge. It is delicious in other cocktails too, or drizzle it over a fruit salad to give it a little zing. Makes 1½ cups 1 cup water 1 cup sugar 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and peppers and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
2. Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.