Summer Cocktails: Mint Julep and Mojito

With the weather warming up and summer right behind the corner, cold cocktails with fresh mint leaves are the perfect choice for hot summer days or warm evenings. Two of the most popular cocktails that use fresh mint leaves are the mint julep and mojito. Both drinks use mint leaves to provide a unique and refreshing flavor. Mint juleps are typically a cocktail associated with southern states, specifically Kentucky. The mojito on the other hand is a traditional Cuban cocktail.

Mint juleps have a long history with the southern states dating back to the eighteenth century. More recently, the mint julep has become associated with horse racing and is the official drink of the Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby. And with the Kentucky Oaks & Derby coming up (May 3 and 4), here’s the traditional mint julep recipe so you can make your own and watch the races:

  • 3 ounces Bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (or granulated sugar, to taste)
  • 4-6 sprigs mint leaves

Put the mint leaves, simple syrup or sugar, and a small amount of bourbon into a glass and muddle the mint leaves to release the mint’s essential oil and flavor. Add crushed ice and the rest of the bourbon. Mix everything together and garnish with a mint sprig. It is traditionally served in a silver julep cup or more commonly a tall glass.

Mint Julep

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The mojito has a rich history Cuba and was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinks. The mojito, or at least a similar drink, is believed to have been first concocted by members of Francis Drake’s crew as a remedy for scurvy. While most of us don’t have to worry about staving off scurvy nowadays, the mojito is a great drink to help cool off on hot summer days. The traditional mojito recipe is:

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice OR ½ lime cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 ounce simple syrup OR 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ ounce chilled club soda
  • 8 mint leaves

Muddle mint leaves, sugar or simple syrup, and lime juice or 3 of the lime wedges. Add ice, rum, and club soda, and then stir. Garnish with mint sprig and/or a lime wedge.

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Both of these drinks are a great choice to cool off on a hot summer day, the mint julep with more of a classic American taste and the mojito with a nice tropical flavor. Try both of these refreshing drinks and decide which one you like better. Leave me a comment and let me know which drink you prefer to cool off with. Cheers!

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Whiskey: Bourbon versus Scotch

008The spelling of the word itself is debated, whiskey or whisky, with whiskey with an “e”, usually referring to Irish or American whiskies, while whisky, without the “e”, is used by pretty much every other country, especially Canada and Scotland. Whiskey comes in a multitude of varieties, each with their own particular flavor. Two of the most popular types of whiskey are bourbon and Scotch. Whiskey can also be categorized as single malt whiskey, blended whiskey, or single-barrel whiskey. All types of whiskey are made from a fermented grain mash. Different types of whiskey use different types of grains, like barley, malted barley, rye, wheat, and corn. After being distilled, whiskey is usually aged in wooden barrels, which are often made from charred white oak.

Bourbon is an American whiskey that is made from a mash that consists of at least 51% corn. Other American whiskies include corn whiskey, rye whiskey, and wheat whiskey, all of which get their name from being made from at least 51% of a particular grain. There are many regulations that American whiskies must comply with, such as they cannot be distilled more than 80% alcohol by volume and barreled at no more than 125 proof. If it is aged for two years or more, it is also labeled as straight, such as a straight bourbon whiskey.

Scotch whisky, like bourbon, has many regulations that it has to obey in order to be defined as Scotch whisky. It has to be produced at a distillery in Scotland and be made from water and malted barley, along with being matured in Scotland in oak casks for at least three years. Scotch must also have a minimum strength of 40% alcohol by volume. Within the Scotch whisky family, there are five different types, such as single malt and single grain Scotch whisky. These two basic types of Scotch whisky can then be blended to make: blended malt Scotch whisky (two or more single malt Scotch whiskies), blended grain Scotch whisky (two or more single grain Scotch whiskies), or a blended Scotch whisky (blend of one or more single malts with one or more single grains).

Scotch whiskies have a smoky taste that comes from drying the malted barley with peat smoke. This peat smoke gives Scotch its distinctive flavor. Bourbon on the other hand usually has a sweeter and smoother taste that comes from the corn used in its mash. Both of these types of whiskies make for a great drink. Next time you go out for a drink, try both and decide which one you like better. Leave me comment and let me know which kind of whiskey you prefer. Cheers!

The Wonderful World of Wine

005Wine is one of those drinks that is elegant and simple at the same time. Wine is a beverage that has a long rich history behind it. Wine was first believed to have been made around 6000 B.C. in an area that is now the country of Georgia, and had appeared around the Middle East and the Balkans by around 4500 B.C. Wine was a favorite drink of ancient Greece and Rome, where both civilizations actually had gods that represented wine. Wine is an important element in both Christian and Jewish traditional ceremonies.

Europe is the homeland of wine, with France, Italy, and Spain leading the world in wine production, but the United States is right behind them. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley in California are world renowned for producing excellent wines. European wines are often classified by the region it is made in, such as Bordeaux and Chianti, while other countries normally classify wines by the type of grape that went into making it, like Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

Wine is often classified into one of six categories, red, white, rose, sparkling, fortified wine, and dessert wines, with red and white wines being the most common types. The difference between red and white wines comes from the types of grapes used, the fermentation process, and the aging process. The biggest factor in making a red or white wine is the types of grapes that were used to make it, with white grapes producing white wine and red and black grapes normally being used to make red wine. Most red wines are made by first destemming and then crushing the grapes while leaving the grape skins in contact with the juice during the fermentation. White wines are usually made without destemming or crushing and are instead just pressed to extract the juice from the grapes. Red wines are also usually aged in oak barrels, while only a few varieties of white wine are aged.

When consumed in moderation, wine has been shown to have positive health effects, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and having cardioprotective properties. Wine, red wine in particular, contains many beneficial chemicals such as antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Now that you have some more information about wine and what makes red and white wines different, go out and pick up some different types of wine to try and see which kind you like the best. Cheers!

Tropical cocktails: Margaritas and Daiquiris

Daiquiris and margaritas are classic tropical cocktails. Both cocktails have a similar taste and they both have Latin American roots. The daiquiri originated in Cuba and the margarita came from Mexico. Both have a similar citrusy taste to them. The main difference between the two is that daiquiris use rum and margaritas use tequila. Both drinks can be served either on the rocks or blended with ice but the traditional way to serve both cocktails is on the rocks.

 

The original recipe for a daiquiri is:

2 1/2 ounces white rum

1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons superfine sugar

Ice

1 lime wheel, for garnish

 

In a cocktail shaker, add rum, lime juice and sugar. Add the ice and shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with the lime wheel and serve.

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A margarita is made with similar ingredients but uses tequila in place of rum and uses Cointreau or triple sec instead of sugar. The traditional recipe for a margarita is:

1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila

1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Ice

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice and shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled glass.

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Both of these drinks can be made with variations and use other ingredients to give them other fruit flavors but these are the traditional recipes. Now that you know how easy it is to make daiquiris and margaritas, make them and compare to see which one you like better. Cheers!

 

Classic Cocktails: Martini and Manhattan

Classic cocktails are simple, stiff, and elegant, and two classic cocktails that epitomize that description are the martini and the Manhattan. These two cocktails are very similar but also very different. Martinis and Manhattans are both served in cocktail glasses, also known as martini glasses, and both are made with a similar ingredient, vermouth. Vermouth is an aromatic fortified wine that is flavored with a variety of botanicals such as herbs, roots, barks, flowers, seeds, and spices. These two drinks differ in their main ingredient, the type of spirit that goes into either one.

The martini is one of the most iconic classic cocktails and it is quite possibly the most famous cocktail, thanks in part to James Bond, who preferred his, “shaken, not stirred.” There are many variations of the martini but the original recipe is nice and simple with just has two ingredients and a garnish. Variations call for using a few drops of Angostura bitters or vodka instead of gin but the traditional martini recipe is:

2 ½ oz gin

½ oz vermouth

1 green olive or lemon twist as a garnish

Pour the ingredients into either a mixing glass or shaker with ice cubes and stir or shake until well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with either an olive or a lemon twist.

The Manhattan is another classic that is similar to a martini, but it is made with whiskey instead of gin. There is a debate about what kind of whiskey to use, bourbon, rye, or Canadian whiskey. The choice of which whiskey to use is ultimately up to you, the drinker. Other variations on the Manhattan include replacing whiskey with brandy or using Scotch. The original recipe is:

2 oz rye whiskey

½ oz sweet vermouth

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 Maraschino cherry for garnish

The preparation is pretty much the same as the martini; pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes and stir until well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.

These are two of the oldest and most classic of cocktails. Next time you’re out at a bar, try either one or try them both and compare, if you do try both just plan on not driving. Cheers!

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