For anyone that’s ever put a perfectly made Mint Julep to their lips – one where the ideal balance is achieved by mixing fresh mint, a touch of sugar, a good high proof rye or Bourbon and that subtle dilution provided only by crushed ice – will know that enjoying a good whiskey needn’t be reserved for the cooler months. No need for that clichéd rocking chair or an open fire when sipping your favourite dram.
Too often, it is the white spirits such as vodka, gin, blanco tequila and unaged rum that are thought of as the most versatile when mixed into cocktails. To buy into this philosophy, however, would allow one to miss the fact that many aged spirits – especially whiskies – can provide an amazing base in a wide variety of mixed drinks to be enjoyed over the summer. The aforementioned Julep – first mentioned in print in 1803 – is the most famous, although during its long and celebrated chronology it has been made with everything from gin to brandy to rum.
At Maison Premiere in Brooklyn’s trendy Williamsburg, co-owner Maxwell Britten has turned this spectacular bar into somewhat of a beacon for local Julep lovers. They have a constantly rotating list of at least four Juleps on their superb menu, each one perfectly balanced and presented as a work of art. A strong rye base might be tempered by something exotic like crème Yvette, yellow Chartreuse, demerara sugar or orange flower water, among a myriad of other strange sounding elixirs and bitters.
"A veritable kaleidoscope of different fruits and other flavours would find a happy home here"
A close relative of the Julep would be that from the family of cocktails known as ‘Smashes’. There are obvious similarities to the Julep – such as mint and sugar – as well as more subtle differences such as the crushing of fresh lemon and the fact that a good Smash is shaken with energetic fervour and strained on fresh cubed ice. They, too, have a past that can be traced back to the 19th Century, although it was bartending legend Dale de Groff that brought them back into the modern cocktail movement when he began serving them at the now shuttered Rainbow Room in Manhattan.
Perhaps no other fruit screams ‘Summer’, however, than a perfectly ripe watermelon. When shaken into a Whiskey Smash (you won’t even need sugar if the fruit is at its peak) with some fresh mint, a whisper of lemon and of course your favourite American rye or Bourbon (even an unaged white whiskey works well), this might well make a case to succeed our friend the Julep from its throne as the king of summer
Like the Julep, the Smash is another extremely versatile libation in which a veritable kaleidoscope of different fruits and other flavours would find a happy home here. Summer stone fruits such as apricot, peach and nectarine are all a match made in heaven for any American whiskey, while fresh berries of any guise can be mixed with virtually any whisky on earth. Pineapple also makes an able deputy (as seen in the elegant Algonquin Cocktail, named for the iconic hotel in Midtown Manhattan), while fresh herbs and whiskey also pair nicely.
And we certainly cannot forget the classic Fizz cocktail traditionally taken as a morning pick-me-up) and typically made with gin. The pre-fix ‘Silver’ is used if an egg white is shaken into the mix, adding a rich and smooth texture that is one of the greatest gifts ever bestowed upon the cocktail world. If you are a fan of the Fizz at all, then you will most certainly enjoy the Morning Glory Fizz, made with Scotch whisky, absinthe, lemon juice, sugar and an egg white, topped with a spritz of soda water.
A similar drink called a Rattlesnake reared its head in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book by famed bartender Harry Craddock and has a rye whiskey base, shaken with absinthe, lemon and sugar (yet served ‘up’ this time). Below the recipe in this classic tome, it says it is “so called because it will either cure rattlesnake bite, or kill rattlesnakes, or make you see them”. Hmm, perhaps. Either way, both the above recipes are truly sublime and are wonderful summer cocktails.
The Cobbler is another classic drink that at a time during the 1860s, its version made with sherry was the most popular cocktail in America. The drink was, and is, great because it can be adapted to be made with almost any spirit. The Whiskey Cobbler is a fine example that could put anyone at ease if made with an Irish, American or Scottish expression. A Cobbler is essentially a mélange of muddled fruit and sugar, perhaps shaken with a little maraschino or orange curacao, both popular liqueurs at the time. It was poured into a long glass and garnished with a veritable ‘salad’ of whatever fruits and berries were in season.
Mixing all this fruity nonsense into your favourite whisky might seem like heresy to some of you, but no one can deny the global cocktail juggernaut that is sweeping the world right now. If it does nothing more than attract a whole new generation or demographic to discover the wonderful world of whisky, then the talented bartenders across the globe must be doing something right.
Chamomile SazeracBy Saxon + Parole – New York CityINGREDIENTS
- 60ml Old Overholt rye
- 1 barspoon absinthe
- 10ml chamomile syrup
- 3 dashes chamomile tincture
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Stir over ice.
Strain into a frozen Old Fashioned glass sprayed with chamomile ‘mist’.
- 60ml Bourbon or rye
- 60ml fresh watermelon juice
- Dash lemon juice
- 6 mint leaves – torn
Shake very hard and strain on ice.GARNISH
A slice of fresh watermelon.
Louisville Jockey JulepBy Maxwell Britten – Maison Premiere, BrooklynINGREDIENTS
- 45ml Bourbon
- 15ml lemon juice
- 20ml spiced banana syrup
- 2 dashes lemon bitters
- 6-8 mint leaves
- Muddle mint and banana syrup
- Add some crushed and the lemon juice
Add more crushed and the Bourbon.
Stir well and fill Julep cup to overflowing with crushed ice.GARNISH
An obnoxious sized mint sprig.
- 60ml rye whiskey
- 30ml dry vermouth
- 45ml fresh pineapple juice
Shake very hard and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.GARNISH
BlinkerFrom Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual, 1934INGREDIENTS
- 60ml rye whiskey
- 30ml grapefruit juice
- 15ml raspberry syrup
Shake and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.GARNISH
Three fresh raspberries.