As far as I remember I have always been a cocktail person : since my early twenties I have enjoyed cocktails, not only drinking them but even better, preparing and mixing them.
However I don’t fancy over complicated cocktails, with too many ingredients, that don’t taste anything precise in the end, neither the sum nor the combination of the ingredients. I like to keep things simple : 2 to 3 ingredients maximum, better with only 2, and sometime some carbonated water or a soft soda to make a lighter or longer drink. Cocktails such as daiquiri, margarita, gin fizz, Moscow mule, dry martini (very dry actually, my favorite, one ingredient and a half plus an olive, that’s for another time) caipirinha, mojito. Usually one spirit, some lemon or lime juice and a carbonated soft drink or soda water. Sometimes a second spirit or a bitter, Angostura preferably. Nothing more. The most complicated one I like — I started with it at the Harry’s Bar in Paris (where this very version of the white lady was created by Harry precisely) — would be the white lady (2 spirits, gin and Cointreau plus lemon juice). But generally I prefer having those simple and straightforward cocktails I mentioned above.
And the mint julep of course.
To keep it simple, I usually follow the Harry’s Bar recipe from their very book, which is as follow: powder sugar with a bit of water and 8 to 10 mint leaves in a highball or any large glass, stir gently to melt the sugar, at the same time it will release the mint flavor from the leaves. Don’t crush nor brutalize the mint otherwise some bitter and green herbal taste will follow which you don’t want of course. Then crushed ice, one fluid ounce of bourbon (roughly 3 cl or one dose using a cocktail jigger (those double conical shaped measures), stir, repeat : crushed ice, another ounce of bourbon stir, repeat depending on the size of your glass. I stop after the second ounce of bourbon but depending on your thirst you could continue. Lastly, float with a dash of bourbon (the actual recipe calls for another yet stronger 101 proof bourbon, the only part of the recipe I don’t follow : actually I float with a generous dash the same bourbon.)
The key ingredient to this cocktail is obviously the bourbon, this is a one-liquid-ingredient cocktail apart from the mint leaves for the taste. There comes the Penelope Bourbon, my new discovery from this year (your can read the full discovery and also the full review).
And yes the bourbon makes a difference ! The bourbon we use in such a cocktail that is merely pure bourbon with some mint leaves does matter indeed : bad taste or bad quality bourbon would make a poor mint julep. As I already enjoyed the Penelope Bourbon as such, plain and straight, it was the most suitable candidate for the perfect mint julep.
Which it was indeed, the best mint julep I have ever had so far !