adventure, beverages, family, settlement cookbook, summer

Mint julep

Now that summer (with all its heat and humidity) is in full swing, my sister Lissa has been contemplating what would make the weather more bearable. There’s swimming, long afternoons in Starbucks, evenings at the air-conditioned movie theater.* There’s also the tried-and-true tradition of iced mixed drinks. Every few days, she sighs wistfully, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be sipping a mint julep on a Southern porch?”

she’s up to something

Yes, it would be nice. In fact, we can sip mint juleps right here on our Ohio porch. Except for the fact that Lissa doesn’t drink alcohol.
Despite this drawback, I decided to make mint juleps anyway. Lissa could imbibe in spirit (hah), while my dad and I enjoyed a refreshing cocktail. So I flipped open the “Settlement” book to its recipe for “Mint Julep.”
Then the trouble began.
You know how I’ve occasionally had to do complicated mathematics to figure out measurements? And how I rejoiced that this “modern” cookbook gave you all of the measurements so you didn’t have to work too hard? Not so for mint juleps. Here is the recipe in full:

Large Thin Julep Glass–Dissolve one teaspoon fine sugar in water, one dash Maraschino, one glass whiskey or brandy as preferred, four or five sprigs mint held to side of glass, leaves up. Fill up with fine ice and do not bruise the mint. Trim with fruits. If preferred mint can be bruised, but above is the regular Southern julep.

Oh, it’s all fine and dandy until you get to the “glass” of whiskey or brandy. How big is a “glass”?

So I turned to my trusty Joy of Cooking for advice. But the mystery only deepened, for Joy instructed:

Pour into bar glass: 1 large jigger bourbon whisky


Add more ice to within 3/4 inch of top of glass. Add: 1 pony whisky


For the first time I began to regret that I don’t drink cocktails. If I did, perhaps I’d know the lingo. Apparently you don’t have to go back in time to find hard-to-decipher recipes.

Finally, after much searching, I discovered a handy table in Joy that explained that 1 “jigger” equals 1 1/2 oz, not to be confused with the “large jigger” (2 oz), while a “pony” equals 1 oz. So after cross-referencing the modern recipe with the 1903 recipe, and discovering that our liquor cabinet had only brandy, and converting the weird bar slang to actual measurements, and failing to crush ice from our freezer, I managed to make two mint juleps, one for me and one for my dad. Lissa supervised the proceedings, though she did not taste the results. And indeed, the drink was refreshing, cool and minty.

Lest my sister ever complain that I’m not nice enough to her, let this be a testament to my devotion: I’m willing to battle multiple recipes and cabinet shortages to make her a cocktail she won’t even drink.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.

Mint Julep (1903 Version)
(adapted from The “Settlement” Cook Book and Joy of Cooking)
two servings

for the sugar syrup:
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp hot water

for the drinks:
6 oz brandy or whiskey, divided
9-10 sprigs mint, plus more to garnish
ice to fill (it’s supposed to be crushed, but I liked it with regular ice)

Make the syrup: mix the sugar and water together in a small bowl until dissolved.

Make the drinks: divide the syrup equally into two tall glasses (if you don’t have julep cups, you can use tall bar glasses). Squeeze the mint in your hand to release some of the oil (a nice compromise between bruising and not), and place 4-5 sprigs, leaves up, in each glass. Pour 1 1/2 oz brandy or whiskey into each glass. Fill each glass with ice until 3/4 full. Pour another 1 oz brandy or whiskey into each glass, and stir to combine. Garnish with extra mint leaves.

Serve on a porch in the twilight.

* Except when the entire movie theater loses power. Like it did last week when we were one hour into Spiderman.

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