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.

Mojito.jpg

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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!

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!