How to: Make a Mint Julep

how to make a mint julep

Much like the Sazerac, the Mint Julep is a simple cocktail whose preparation and mystique makes it seem really complex. Mrs. Simple Cocktails got me a full-blown julep “kit” for Valentine’s this year, so I’m making them now using all the proper tools. I’ve provided Amazon links to everything I used below:

how to make a mint julep

Step 1: take a Lewis bag filled with ice and smash it to tiny bits using a wooden mallet. The Lewis Bag prevents the ice from being “wet” by wicking the water away as you crush it.

Step 2: Next take a nickel or silver julep cup and fill it with 15-20 mint leaves and 1/2 oz of simple syrup. Muddle them gently together for 30 seconds and add a scoop of crushed ice to the cup. Stir well.

how to make a mint julep

Step 3: Add 3 oz bourbon whiskey to the cup and stir more. Add more crushed ice, this time almost to the top. Stir more. Your shiny julep cup should start looking like mine in the photo: frosty and cold! Top once more with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig and cocktail straws. Optionally, you can dust the top of the Julep with powdered sugar.

how to make a mint julep

Here’s the recipe list once more. Like I said, it’s simple and it’s theatrical:

Mint Julep

  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 15-20 mint leaves and a sprig for garnish
Photography by Jasmine Nicole.


Dewar’s Highlander Honey

dewar's highlander honey

I have to confess this right out of the gate: I don’t particularly love Scotch and I hate the taste of honey. That should make Dewar’s pretty nervous as I prepare to review Dewar’s Highlander Honey, a brand new Scotch-based honey-flavored liquor, right?

Let me follow up and say that much of the reason that I am not a huge Scotch fan is that I haven’t tried a whole lot of it. In fact, I joined the Albuquerque Whiskey Club just to get some more exposure to it.

There is only one other Scotch-based liqueur that I’ve tried, and that’s Drambuie, which is also sweetened with honey, plus an assortment of herbs. Outside of the Scotch and honey connection, these two products might as well be opposites. Drambuie is sticky and most people find it too sweet to drink by itself. Dewar’s Highlander Honey, however, is nowhere near as sweet. In fact, I’d say it’s mostly a Scotch with a very slight trace of sweetness to it, and I detected little-to-no distinct honey flavor.

Funny enough, for a guy who’s a Scotch newbie and a honey hater, Dewar’s Highlander Honey (which retails for $24) is actually just right for me. It takes the distinct characteristics of Scotch that I’m still learning to love and makes them more accessible with a very subtle touch of natural sweetness.

dewar's highlander honey

Photos by Jasmine Nicole.


New York Sour

new york sour

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago at Bon Appetit and tried it that same day. It’s quite sweet and you could easily make a bowl of this as an adult punch for a party. Here’s how you make it:

New York Sour

  • in a cocktail shaker, add:
  • 2 oz rye whiskey (substitute bourbon if you’d like)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • add ice, shake, and strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice
  • slowly pour a fruity wine (I used Shiraz) over a barspoon into the glass so it floats on top of the cocktail

As you can see from my picture, the presentation is amazing. I found the “float” part to be much easier than I anticipated.


making screwdriver cocktails

Years before I knew anything about cocktail making, I had two favorite cocktails: Vodka Martinis and Screwdrivers. The Screwdriver is a pretty great drink, particularly when you make it right- no orange juice cartons allowed! I mixed two versions of the humble Screwdriver – one with the most basic recipe and one with a little more mixology flair. Here are the two drinks:

screwdriver cocktails: fancy and fresh

Fancy Screwdriver (by Greg Mays)

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 oz triple sec
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice
  • garnish with an orange slice

Fresh Screwdriver

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3 oz fresh orange juice
  • shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice
  • garnish with an orange slice

Both cocktails are great, particularly with that delicious fresh-squeezed juice. If you have the extra ingredients for the Fancy Screwdriver, that one is more complex and tasty than the standard vodka/orange juice mix.

 Special thanks to Jasmine Nicole, my photographer for this post.

Recipes from the Morning Brew 5/14/13

morning brew logo

Welcome Morning Brew viewers! Here are the simple cocktail recipes I made on the show this morning:

Gin Rickey

  • in a glass full of ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz gin (I used Wheeler’s from Santa Fe Spirits)
  • top with club soda
  • and the juice and shell of 1/2 a lime

Whiskey Sour

  • in a cocktail shaker, add:
  • 2 oz whiskey (I used Jack Daniel’s)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • shake vigorously with ice, strain into a glass filled with ice
  • garnish with 2 cherries

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How To: Make Ice Blocks

ice block in jack daniel's

I love to drink my whiskey with a single, rough-cut ice block (I call them icebergs). It makes me proud when I serve a drink at my home bar and someone asks “did you make this ice?” I realize that’s borderline crazy, as making ice involves nothing more than freezing water, but I know you other home bartenders also take pride in the details, like getting your liquors and garnishes just right, so here’s a step-by-step guide to how I make my icebergs:

Step 1: add about 2″ of spring or distilled water in a breadpan and freeze overnight.

Step 2: once frozen, run the breadpan under cold, then warm, then hot water to break the ice free.

photo 2

Step 3: Lay your ice block on a cutting board. Put a towel under it to tame the shrapnel.

photo 3

Step 4: I’ve tried a lot of ways to do this, including ice picks, scoring lines in the ice, or gently chopping in the ice with a knife. I’ve found the best way is to just chop it in one blow with a really sharp knife, samurai-style.

photo 4

Step 4, continued: keep chopping the ice into blocks until you’re satisfied with the size. As you can see, I usually get about 7 or 8 big ice blocks that are 2-3″ and a few other scraps that I use in Gin and Tonics.

Step 5: store in a plastic container in the freezer. I use semi-disposable food storage boxes like Ziploc or Rubbermaid. Enjoy your ice blocks!


Art in the Age SAGE

art in the age sage in bloom cocktail

SAGE is one of 4 small-batch liquors that Philadelphia-based Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction produces, including ROOT, SNAP, and RHUBARB liqueurs as well. SAGE is a tough one to categorize, as it’s basically a juniper-less, sage-heavy gin, a base for a more herbal martini maybe.

SAGE, then, is a unique bottle for your home bar. If gin is not a liquor you enjoy, SAGE may give you a fresh-tasting and suitable alternative. For gin lovers, SAGE has a pretty distinct flavor, so give it a taste and let me know what you think. I used SAGE in this cocktail, which is a refreshing sipper for a spring garden party:

In Bloom (by Greg Mays)

  • 2 oz SAGE
  • 1/2 oz Royal Rose: Rose Syrup
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lemon wedge


Breaking Bad: The Cocktail

breaking bad cocktail

I was talking with someone from out of town recently, and they asked if Breaking Bad has given Albuquerque a bad name, y’know, since it’s a TV show about drugs, drug dealers, and violence, and since it proudly mentions that Albuquerque is the place that all of this is happening.

I snickered in my response: Breaking Bad has actually brought a strange local pride to Albuquerque, not shame. There are spas that sell “Bathing Bad” bath salts and soaps. A local donut store has their own Breaking Bad donuts. Local confectioner The Candy Lady sells little baggies of blue rock candy, in fact, they’re the company that made the props for the TV show.

It’s about time that we (Albuquerque) came up with our own Breaking Bad Cocktail. This is a simple recipe provided that you can find some candy “blue meth.” While you prepare to make the drink, crush the candy with a big knife butt just like Tuco Salamanca. Then using lemon juice, rim an old fashioned glass with the crushed candy.

breaking bad cocktail

In Albuquerque, Tequila is the second-best selling spirit (just behind vodka), so we should certainly use tequila as the base. Here’s the recipe, which is a Tequila Sour with the addition of blue meth candy. That makes it break bad, right?

Breaking Bad Cocktail (by Greg Mays)

  • fill a “blue meth” rimmed old fashioned glass with ice
  • in a shaker add:
  • 2 oz tequila
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • shake with ice and strain into the old fashioned glass

Remember you can subscribe to our email newsletter and download our free Simple Cocktails recipe booklet now!

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