Mint-Julip-2

It’s the Derby weekend so herewith, again, my preferred method for making a great mint julep with a truly minty, clean taste and a color that announces what it is. You can use either a blender or a mortar and pestle (I prefer the latter for the mintiest flavor, pix and recipe here). Of course, I’m still fond of my first julep(s) made by still my dearest pal, Blake Bailey, and the story surrounding it. Blake was initially too mortified to be named at the time, but since he wrote about the event in his searing memoir, The Splendid Things We Planned, the story is out. Happy Derby Day, all! (And don’t forget to have a look at my newest book, How to Saute: Foolproof Techniques and Recipes For the Home Cook. And feel free to enter the Read On »

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Mint-Julip-2

The first shoots of mint have sprung through the soil as if sensing the approach of the Kentucky Derby. The sun is out here in Cleveland, the birds are chirping, and the Browns made sensible draft choices.  All of which call for a mint julep this weekend. In my first post on this drink several springs ago, I served a somewhat unconventional julep and was roundly taken to task for it (no crushed ice? in a glass?). Deservedly. So herewith an almost traditional version, which is simply mint leaves, muddled with sugar, and bourbon, served over crushed ice in a silver cup. My only variation is for serving multiple juleps. A great strategy if you’ve invited people for Derby Day. Some may find the verdant hue unnerving but it’s worth it for the clean mint flavor Read On »

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Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

  What cocktail to offer on Independence Day, the day some of the greatest political minds signed the document outlining the most secure and fair methods of governance, formally and with uncommon eloquence and foresight, and obliterating all ties with Great Britain? I suggest a smash, connoting demolition and also one of our country’s oldest cocktails, featuring one of our oldest spirits. I do so after consulting Brad Thomas Parsons, whose book Bitters I continue to admire. Responding to my email, he wrote: “Cocktails were born in America, but for that question, I guess I’m thinking less of an iconic drink like an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan or a Martini, and instead, as it’s the Fourth of July, thinking about a spirit with heritage—something the American colonists might be drinking. Something like applejack or apple brandy. Laird & Company is Read On »

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When I opened to the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s wonderful and expanded food section, I was delighted to find a handful of bartenders offering cocktails. The Derby, offered by Lindsey Hawes, who mixes drinks at The Willeyville in the Cleveland Flats, caught my eye (here she is making another fave of mine, The Dark & Stormy). The Derby  caught my eye for its straightforwardness and lack of frou. I immediately thought of the Brown Derby, a restaurant chain that flourished here in the 1970s, where I first encountered what was called a salad bar, back in the pre-sneeze guard days (God, how I long for the simpler times when people didn’t freak out about bacteria and rub sanitizing gel on their hands every five minutes). Potatoes came foil wrapped (an actual botulism worry, in fact). Butter Read On »

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I love the clean and pure daiquiri, nothing more than a rum sour. I love a mint julep for its power and herbal freshness. But one thing I don’t like is large fragments of leaves floating in my drink and ever threatening to catch on my front tooth mid-conversation. I felt like a daiquiri last weekend and made some hastily. I wanted to perfect it. To get more depth from the sugar, I made a simple syrup of brown sugar (equal parts water and brown sugar, heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled). I pulverized the mint in a mortar, then let the rum soak with it to infuse. Then I strained the rum through a cloth. I combined it all and topped it with sparkling water. It seemed to me the perfect mojito, and Read On »

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