Tuesday 11 August 2015

A garden of bourbon delights

Mrs H. pointed out that we had mint growing in the garden, something that I admit hadn’t really sunk in before (I am not the green-fingered type). In fact more than once I have gone to buy some herb or other only for her to show me later that it was actually growing ten feet from the kitchen door.

So I did what any gentleman would do, and made a mint julep. I mention this only really to share with you my intense satisfaction with it: every now and then you make a cocktail where everything falls into place, as if for the first time you truly see what it is all about.

Juleps in waiting: some of the leaves that got away… this time
I took five leaves of mint and put them in a tumbler with about a teaspoon of sugar syrup,* maybe a teaspoon and a half, and muddled it. Then I filled the glass with ice** and added an undisclosed quantity of Four Roses (I used the Single Barrel, which was perhaps extravagant, though it worked well), then stirred.

You get a fresh, pungent aroma from the mint that you simply don’t get from things that are “mint-flavoured”, and this mint had been only a couple of minutes off the plant. The drink was sweetened, but not sweet, and the character of the whisky shone through. The Single Barrel is bottled at 50% so it can take a bit of dilution from the ice without seeming at all watery (and this ice adds no flavour of its own), though I tried the same recipe the next night with the Four Roses Small Batch and it worked well too.

I think I should try using more things from the garden in drinks—though I fear that it may be some years before the fruit of the lemon tree I gave Mrs H. last month will be sliced in our gin and tonics…***

* This was actually commercial syrup from Monin but you can make it yourself easily enough. Ed McAvoy (then Jameson brand ambassador) showed me the simplest way to do it: using a funnel fill a bottle, such as an empty wine or spirit bottle, two-thirds full with dry granulated sugar, then boil a kettle and carefully top the bottle up, before corking it and shaking it vigorously till the sugar dissolves.

** I used ice made in an ice tray with Isbre spring water.

*** And not everything from the garden is good to put in your drink. A few winters ago, inspired by DBS’s post about using snow in drinks, I padded out into the frosty garden and scooped some fresh snow off a plant to make a julep or an absinthe frappé or some such. I forget the actual cocktail, but I vividly remember how astonishingly repulsive it was, full of strong, weird, off flavours, sour and flat, dirty and choking. To this day I cannot understand how water than has fallen frozen from the sky and landed on a leaf can have acquired such a taste, unless the air in London is seriously polluted.

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