Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mint Julep for Southern USA Month

Quite exciting news - December is here! That means summer has arrived, Xmas is close and another year is almost over. I love December. But there is another exciting thing happening this December - Southern USA Food Month. Requested by a reader, initially I was surprised to have the US suggested. Not that I have anything against the US, it's just that most of what the rest of the world sees of US food is cheeseburgers, ribs and fast food in general. Not really my cup of tea. But, he went on to specify - not just anywhere in the US, he wanted Southern USA food. 

It's a good thing that he specified because it seemed to me that once I started looking I found all sorts of region specific food. USA is a BIG country so I would never be able to do justice to all the regional foods. So, for those of us who don't live in the USA (yes, I had to google this) - what exactly does Southern USA encompass? 

This is just a map I got from google images, not sure why PR is on there.

There are a few different definitions of which states make up Southern USA (or I should really say - South Eastern USA). Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. That's what I'm going with this month, although I won't have time to showcase cuisine from each state.

As the majority of my readers are from the USA, I'd love you to offer up some suggestions as to what I should cook. My initial reading has yielded some great ideas that I will be giving a try, and I was very pleased to find reference to several classic Southern USA cocktails. I'm always keen for an excuse to try out a new cocktail, so I noted them down to try. The easiest one was a Mint Julep, apparently popular particularly in Kentucky, where they use spearmint. 

I recalled reference to a mint julep in one of my old cocktail books, so I dug it out and had a look. It's pretty straightforward. Smashed mint with sugar, bourbon and crushed ice. I made up the first one according to my cocktail book. But I was underwhelmed, in fact it felt like drinking straight bourbon on ice. More mint needed! So I went back and changed it around quite a bit - I don't know if that means it's no longer authentic, so I apologise if any American Cocktail fanatics take umbrage at my changes!

1/2 bunch fresh mint
3 tbsp castor sugar
2 tbsp water
4 measures bourbon
Crushed Ice (Note: crushed ice can be hard to come by if you don't have an ice crusher or snow cone maker. I don't have either. You can put some ice in a ziplock bag, cover with a tea towel and smash it up with a sturdy rolling pin or meat tenderiser).

To Make
1. Tear up the mint and put in the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the sugar and the water. Smash the mint into the sugar. I use the end of a large wooden spoon for this, but I believe bartenders have a specific tool for this sort of ingredient-smashing. Use whatever you like, just make sure the mint is well smashed up. It should form a bit of a pulpy paste with the sugar and water.
2. Add the bourbon, put the lid on and shake. 
3. Fill 2 glasses (or a pewter cup, which is what a mint julep is traditionally served in) with crushed ice and pour the whiskey evenly between them. Drink immediately.

Serves 2.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Keely, thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thanks for telling us about Southern USA. This Mint Julep looks like a great cocktail for a hot day. It's interesting how we can have a conception of the food from a country but once we start researching find so much more.