The Cocktail for a Roasting Planet
A few years ago, I was waiting to go through what the Iraqi’s called customs in the Basra airport. It was July and I was looking at the current temperature for what is considered the hottest place on earth: 55. That didn’t seem so bad too me. A lady attached to the same mission was on the phone with her mother in Germany. She quit the line laughing and said to a nurse in English, “Fifty five, Mother says it doesn’t get that hot.”
Which was when my big, dumb, American head went metric and got a number that looked a lot like 130. Well, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Walking outside was like getting assaulted in a pottery kiln. It really was damned hot. I was wearing a khaki suit and within minutes I looked like TE Lawrence having a bad day. It’s not the sort of heat you feel in America… much.
Or didn’t used to. It’s been lingering at just over a hundred for a week in Memphis – which isn’t that strange for July, but some rain would help. My co-host on the once and future 4717 podcast, David Seale, texted me from a conference in Dallas, and it was 107. But everything is bigger in Texas. Begging the question, just what the hell do you drink when the planet is roasting?
First of all, you drink all the water you can get your sweaty hands on. Once you’ve covered that base, you can move on from hydration to libation. Littlebit suggested a white wine spritzer – which I’ve never actually had, but understand it’s low-alcohol and refreshing if you’re loafing around a pool all day. As she has just graduated (with distinction) from the hallowed mountaintop University of the South, and has real job, I’m assuming she’ll be doing less loafing.
What I can speak too is the Mint Julep – it’s a bourbon slushy. And if you put it in the traditional silver or pewter julep cup, it will develop layer of frost on the outside. So take that global warming. Understand you can’t make them in batches, or at least I’ve never been happy with the results. This is a craft cocktail, a holdover from the days when you didn’t have a choice.
First, muddle a couple of mint leaves in the bottom of the julep cup with about an inch of sugar if you are a traditionalist. Personally, I think you get better results with about an ounce or two of simple syrup. Then add crushed ice – to be clear, by “crushed” I mean almost powered or even shaved. Your best bet is a tea towel, a mallet and beat the devil out of it. Again: Bourbon slushy. Slip another sprig along the side of cup and pack tight with ice with your hand. So much ice that nothing else can fit into the cup.
Then… pour in a good Kentucky bourbon. Not rye or scotch. That glacier in your cup will melt, making room for more bourbon that you’d think and with a good stir you cup with have a layer of frost around it. Think of it like drinking a martini directly out of the ice cold shaker.
I know, right?
A word of caution: this isn’t a standard 2 oz cocktail pour – the amount of whiskey in a julep is deceiving… it’s about 5 zo. Tread lightly. Dust with a little nutmeg and you have yourself a classic cocktail – invented in the south before air-conditioning and perfect for anyplace that feels like it’s about to be eaten by the sun.