Daily Libations April 2021

Joe Daily.

Derby season cocktails to get your party started!


By Joe Daily
Photos by Kathryn Harrington and Andrea Hutchinson


And we are off to the races! Thanks again if you read my first rendition of “Daily Libations.” If this is your first time, welcome. The time is upon us for the sound of galloping horses, the smell of mint in the air, the wonderful Southern glam and the cheers heading towards the finish line. But wait, there is one more cheers to be had and we are talking cocktail cheers! Derby season is here and the days are getting longer and maybe your nights are too! I am here to help keep you and your guests refreshed with Kentucky Derby favorites: the Mint Julep and the Old Fashioned.

Joe Daily.

Starting with the mint julep, its origin is a little murky, but we do know it’s tied to Washington D.C., Virginia and later in Louisville, KY at the hands of one of the most prestigious mixologists of the time and still to this day, Tom Bullock, author of “The Ideal Bartender.” I would also like to highlight a few more trailblazers: Jasper Crouch, Jim Cook and John Dabney to name a few. The humble beginnings of the mint julep came about approximately at the beginning of the 1800s (1803 is my first found reference) give or take a cocktail or two. Another fun fact, the roots of the julep-style cocktail originated in Europe for medicinal purposes and were not the tastiest creations. In the United States, before bourbon found its rightful place as the reigning champion of the mint julep, it was common to receive the beverage with gin or rum of British influence – think Jamaican pot-distilled rums.

So let’s talk about precisely what makes this cocktail so unique in this time period. Being that it was the 1800s, it was ice! Ice was a luxury of the time so the ability to enjoy an iced alcoholic beverage was the ultimate luxury with the mix of mint, bourbon and crushed ice. It was a delightful relief on a hot summer day if you had an extra dime to spare. Today, we will be utilizing Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is always dressed for the occasion like a fine Southern gent. If you have not seen this bottle, it is worth a look and a taste! Let’s dive right in and get to know the mint julep.

Mint Julep

Tools required to tipple your senses:
•1 oz to 2 oz jigger (A bartender’s tool to measure)
•Julep tin or rocks glass (My preference is a julep tin that creates a nice frosting on the vessel’s exterior.)
•Bar spoon or swizzle
•Lewis bag and ice mallet (If you want to get back to the original roots, if not, totally okay to pulse blend ice.)
•Ice scoop (The tool everyone forgets, including me.)
•Powdered sugar shaker/sifter (Handy, but unnecessary if you have a sieve or a tea strainer)
•Julep straw (This is a shorter metal straw with a small ice plate connected to the base to block mint and ice.)

Where the magic happens:
•2 oz Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Hue is golden brown with tastes of sweet brown sugar with a touch of black pepper rounded out by hints of dried fruit. Exquisite inside and out coming in at 80 proof allowing you to enjoy responsibly.)
•.75 oz demerara syrup 2:1 (This is truly where we separate ourselves from the pack in terms of flavor, recipe to follow.)
•Muddled: 10-12 fresh mint leaves
Ice: crushed
•Garnish: Fresh mint bouquet coupled with powdered sugar on top

Add 10-12 stemless mint leaves to your julep tin and/or rocks glass.
•Add .75 oz demerara syrup into your julep tin and/or rocks glass.
•Lightly muddle mint to release the oils. (No need to pulverize mint. Lightly press the mint with the muddler rotating a ¼ turn to release the oils.)
•Add pre-crushed ice; add your ice on top of the cocktail halfway up the julep tin and/or rocks glass. Give it a couple of quick stirs to incorporate your ingredients.
•Pro-tip:  Add straw now to prevent blockage.
•Top with more crushed ice and pack it tight into the julep tin and/or rocks glass.
•Pro-tip: Take a fresh bouquet of mint into the palm of your hand and give it a good smack! We want to release those oils to add to the aroma! Garnish on the edge of your vessel.
•Shake powdered sugar over the top of the cocktail to your delight.

Demerara Syrup 2:1
Demerara syrup is much easier than it sounds! Do not fret, it simply consists of 1 cup water and 2 cups of “sugar in the raw.” The reason we are using this is that turbinado sugar and/or demerara sugar has residual molasses content lending itself extremely well to bourbon as you could imagine, putting us much closer to the original cocktail itself and it is light years tastier. Unlike simple syrup that only brings taste to the table in the sense of sweetness, demerara sugar is also a carrier of flavor.
1 cup water
•2 cups “sugar in the raw”
•On medium heat, add water first then add “sugar in the raw.”
Simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved. (Do not allow it to boil and stir frequently.)
•Allow to cool and then bottle.
•Pro-tip: Keep a small funnel, and if you are worried about granules of sugar that have not dissolved, strain through a tea strainer or small sieve. But if you allow time, it will completely dissolve.
•Refrigerate in a resealable bottle.

Now that we have briefly covered the mint julep, how about we dive into the pool once more and discuss another Kentucky favorite: the Old Fashioned! I could literally write a book on this, so I will try to keep it brief. Not only is this the number one served cocktail in the Western world, it is a staple in American history and, drilling down a little deeper, in Kentucky too! Let’s take a second to discuss styles of Old Fashioneds. Something to keep in mind, the Old Fashioned is technically a category of cocktail in its own right, not just a singular cocktail, so we run into quite a few variations. 

Today we will cover the two styles we run into the most: the “built” muddled Old Fashioned and the “stirred” Old Fashioned with a citrus peel. If you really want to impress your friends, pose that question. Do you prefer “muddled” or “stirred” with the peel? Below I will give you the exact breakdown of both cocktails and I recommend trying them both ways side by side with Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to figure out your personal preference. There is no wrong answer between these two styles. At the end of the day, it’s about what you like the most. So, make these cocktails and order with confidence!   

Stirred Old Fashioned

Tools required to tipple your senses:
•1 oz and 2 oz jigger (A bartender’s tool to measure)
•Yarai mixing glass (This is 90% of the time a glass vessel, but there are some metal versions as well.)
•Stirring spoon (This is a spoon designed to stir cocktails.)
•Hawthorne strainer or julep strainer (I prefer hawthorne strainers for all applications.)
•Old Fashioned glass
•Y-peeler (This is for peeling the garnish.)
•Ice scoop (The tool everyone forgets, including me.)

Where the magic happens:
2 oz Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
•.5 oz 2:1 demerara syrup
•2 dashes Angostura bitters
•Ice: large format ice (You can buy larger 2×2” ice molds or you can buy premium clear ice.)
•Garnish: large swath of orange peel (Optional, a lemon peel works too.)

In the mixing glass, add Basil Hayden’s and demerara syrup together.
•Add two dashes of Angostura bitters.
•Fill with ice above the line of fluid. (I usually fill almost ¾ up in the mixing glass.)
•Stir the cocktail moving the spoon to the outside wall of the mixing glass 30-50 times. We want smooth laminar flow. (Laminar flow means we have layers of liquid moving in the same direction, and in return, super-cooling the beverage.) Your ice should swirl in a seamless manner quietly. It requires a little practice!
Strain ingredients using your hawthorne strainer over fresh large format ice into an Old Fashioned glass.
•Peel your garnish and express the oils over the cocktail. This can be done by twisting the peel over the cocktail or by the pinch method. Lean in and you can see the oils being released into the cocktail.
•Take your orange peel and, using the orange skin side of the peel, rub it around the rim of the glass to add oils and aroma, then discard peel.
•Peel new peel and add that one to your finished Old Fashioned. Enjoy!

Muddled/Built Old Fashioned

Tools required to tipple your senses:
1 oz to 2 oz jigger (A bartender’s tool to measure)
•Muddler (Today, we are muddling orange and a brandied cherry.)
•Paring knife
•Cutting board
•Bar spoon
•Old Fashioned glass

Where the magic happens:
2 oz Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
.5 oz 2:1 demerara syrup
•2 dashes Angostura bitters
•Ice: large format ice (You can buy larger 2×2” ice molds or you can buy premium clear ice.)
•Muddled: orange ¼ and brandied cherry
•Garnish: brandied cherry

Add one ¼ wedge of orange and a brandied cherry into the base of the Old Fashioned glass.
•Add liquid ingredients including bitters.
•Muddle the orange and brandied cherry to incorporate ingredients. Try to avoid muddling the orange rind and focus on the flesh of the fruit to avoid bitter flavors in the pith.
•Add large format ice.
•Stir 20-30 times to incorporate and chill ingredients.
•Garnish on top with brandied cherry. Sip your heart away!

No matter which horse wins or what style of cocktail you enjoy, we are here with cocktails to get you to the finish line!

Joe Daily.

As always,
“If you drink it, I study it.”
– Joe Daily 

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