I realize that it’s no longer summer -- the autumnal equinox has come and gone, regardless of the weather -- but I’m clinging to the memory of warmer climes. This stance is chiefly due to my recent acquisition of a vintage electric ice crusher. This streamlined (I think early-to-mid-’60s) Rival Ice-O-Matic is built like a tank, pulverizes whatever I can throw at it, and cost me the princely sum of eleven bucks on eBay:
Why did I want this? Well, Imbibe magazine ran a good-looking comparison of several ice crushers in the July/August issue, and this one from KegWorks looked like a good choice (heaven knows I don’t have any counter space to spare in my cramped kitchen), but the testimonials on eGullet and the Chanticleer Society for the Ice-O-Matic piqued my interest.
And, of course, now that I find myself the beneficiary of a steady supply of crushed ice, the natural next move is to break out the julep cups and go searching for fresh mint. And while a good mint julep may go down easiest during a sticky Southern summer, I can attest that it’s almost as winsome in a Queens September.
There are so many ways to make a julep; entire books have been written about the variations. PDT has a great maple-syrup one on the menu, and David Wondrich makes an interesting-sounding mint julep with Cognac and a float of dark rum (adding rye for a "Prescription Julep.") However, ever since visiting Chris McMillian's Bar UnCommon in New Orleans’ Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel, where a julep is as much a performance as a cocktail, I feel like I’m cheating if I don’t adhere to Chris’s recipe. Peach syrup is head and shoulders above plain simple syrup in this drink, and sometimes I augment it with a judicious dash of peach bitters…but this is above all a showcase for quality bourbon. Break out the good stuff (McMillian uses Maker’s Mark, but any quality expression will work just fine. I’ve used Woodford Reserve to great effect, but currently favor Buffalo Trace.)
"Sip it and dream, it is a dream itself. No other land can give so sweet a solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you so in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like Old Bourbon whiskey."