Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday afternoon cocktail hour

At the suggestion of a reader, Friday afternoons are going to be the cocktail hour around here just to get you in the right frame of mind for the weekend. This weekend is, of course, the Kentucky Derby. So what better way to start the weekend than with a mint julep?

Most of the time, I wouldn’t recommend this drink, which is sort of an odd combination of tastes: mint, sugar, bourbon. But hey, it’s spring…and Derby time.

Even if you’re not going to the race, you can raise a mint julep toast to it and the good people of Kentucky: the Bluegrass State. And while you’re doing it, give some thought to touring Kentucky one of these days. It has much to commend it: Southern hospitality, horse farms, bourbon distilleries.

As a matter of fact, you can taste your way across the state on the Bourbon Trail, visiting Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses distilleries.

To help you capture the spirit of the Derby, here’s a mint julep recipe from the folks at Wild Turkey, where master distiller Jimmy Russell has held court for 54 years. Russell and his minions taught me the finer points of bourbon tasting a few years ago. They’ll do the same for you if you take a Wild Turkey tour.

You can make a julep with any Kentucky bourbon (Jack Daniels doesn’t count: It’s made in Tennessee. By law, bourbons can only be made in Kentucky).

Jimmy’s julep uses Wild Turkey 101; he says the higher proof produces a richer, deeper and fuller taste.

JIMMY’S JULEP

2.5 oz. Wild Turkey 101
3 sprigs of mint (six to eight mature-sized leaves); more for garnish
1½ teaspoons brown sugar
½ cup crushed ice

In a traditional silver julep cup or double-old-fashioned glass, mull two sprigs of mint with the brown sugar and one ounce of Wild Turkey 101 for a few minutes, crushing the mint leaves with a spoon. Add the crushed ice, the rest of the bourbon, and garnish with sprig of mint.

–Rosemary McClure, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Now that's a writing assignment we can all appreciate.