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The following post is sponsored by Frangelico. Cocktail name, development, recipe and photography are completely my own. Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.

Is it summer finally? Are we there yet, Mother Nature?

Up here in the tundra Montreal, the warm weather has been *such* a tease lately. We’ve had one of those springs where two days of delightful, sun-dappled, sleeve-shedding weather are followed by a near-week of chilly, damp, Debbie Downer-weather.

At times like this, I find that crafting a pre-emptively summery cocktail helps. It’s like a rainsundance for fanciful imbibers like us! (Here in French Canada, we might call it a bellwether for belle weather! *har*har*snort!)

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Now, a lot of you know me. You know I can’t resist the occasional chortle-inducing pun (see above), just as you know that my usual summer-sippin’ routine calls for juleps, juleps, juleps and juleps.

A julep’s got most everything I look for in a summertime cocktail. The crushed ice keeps the drink colder, longer and the mint’s cooling and refreshing. But the bourbon — can I do one better on the bourbon? I love (read: luuurrrve) bourbon’s languid sweetness, but how about lightening up its syrupy-ness with some more playful flavors, a little tartness and an unexpected grace note or two three: A hint of nuttiness, a whiff of vanilla, a certain je ne sais noisette? (p.s. Bonus points if I can do all this without glopping on a ton of calories. What up, bathing suit?)

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To make the Summertime Smash, I improved upon (if I do say so myself) the julep by halving the bourbon and replacing it with Frangelico. The hazelnut-flavored liqueur, more delicate in flavor and body, makes for a less heavy cocktail and one with more going on in the glass. The flavor of the Frangelico also allowed me to introduce some lemon into the recipe.

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(Note: I know it seems that a plain-old julep, nothing but mint and bourbon, should pair easily with lemon, but you’d be surprised. It needs a bridge ingredient, a harmony-maker if you will. Enter Frangelico!) (I’ve also done this before with ginger beer.)

Once the hubs and I open our backyard for the season, I’m thinking the Summertime Smash may end up my go-to cocktail for entertaining al fresco. I have a hunch that those friends who find my mint juleps too heavy and cloying will appreciate the more lilting qualities of the Summertime Smash, while those who do love juleps will enjoy the refreshing, slightly fizzy presto-change-up. (Which I’ve also done before; see World’s Greatest Rye Perfect Manhattan.)

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Hey, summer? Ready when you are.

Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.

The Summertime Smash

1 ounce Frangelico

1 ounce bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)

1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (granulated sugar, simple syrup, or mint-steeped simple syrup; see Tasting Notes below for recipes and tips)

A splash of two lemon-spiked seltzer 

About 8 large mint leaves

Crushed ice

Mint sprig and lemon wheel, to garnish

Place mint leaves in bottom of a rocks glass. (It’s up to you whether you want to use a highball, a Collins glass, etc.) Pour sweetener on top of leaves and muddle together well. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, then Frangelico. Top with seltzer. Give the drink a gentle stir, then add your garnish. Enjoy!

Tasting Notes

My preferred method for making simple syrup is to mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.

To make mint-steeped syrup, add a good handful of mint leaves to the above mixture as soon as you’ve removed it from heat. Let the leaves steep 10 or so minutes, then strain them from the mixture and toss.

If you choose granulated sugar as your sweetener, pour just a teaspoon or so of water on top of your mint and sugar before muddling. The liquid acts like a hood that keeps the mint’s fragrance down in the bottom of the glass where you want it, rather than allowing it to release into the air.

Make lemon-spiked seltzer by simply squeezing a lemon wedge into a liter-sized bottle of seltzer. Or, you can just use plain seltzer when making your cocktail, then squeeze a little lemon over your Summertime Smash to finish it off.

So the Triple Crown wound up being a big bust this year. And even though the news is kinda bittersweet/poignant/ironic for us alkies who thought we’d finally found our spirit animal in a horse named I’ll Have Another, it’s no bigs. Let’s keep sippin’ juleps all the same. Let’s just make ‘em stiffer to take the edge off.

Came across this recipe from so-awesome-I-must-slay-him-in-order-to-become-him David Wondrich on Liquor.com and knew we had to try it. Have I ever done a white julep before? Wait… have I never done a white julep before?!? Where’s my brain? (Blotto’d on moonshine, obvs.)

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OK, OK, some of y’all are probably thinking, Enough with the juleps!

And then there are folks like me, who simply cannot have enough julep recipes at their disposal. I collect julep recipes like I used to collect Smurf figurines. Srsly, how you can possibly have enough deliciousness at your fingertips?

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I haven’t told you yet how I spent my New Year’s Eve, have I? Silly me. You’re likely kvetching to know what a pretend professional drinker does on Alcoholics’ Feast Day. (It’s in the Bible, look it up.)

Our evening began early-ish, in the five o’clock hour (it’s not just a blog, it’s a thing you can do!), with the best pizza in the world and a list of champagne cocktails to make. Earlier, we’d picked up a cheapo bottle of bubbles, and of course to get every penny’s worth of the $9.97 you just spent on lowercase-c champagne so embarrassingly embarrassing that I refuse to even mention it by name here, you have to plan for several fizzy drinks at once.

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You know that month and change earlier this summer (it’s still summer, right? Cuz in Montreal it kinda no longer is) when I wasn’t blogging? Becuz I was moving? Out of the country? Well, during the first couple weeks post-move — when Montreal’s August air hovered around a blissful 74-degrees-Fahrenheit-(eff-this-Celsius-shiz-up-here)-and-breezy — Sean and I often retreated to our blacktopped backyard for five o’clock cocktail hour. (It’s not just a blog; it’s a thing you can do!)

And during those first couple weeks, when boxes were still in the unpacking and Francophone grocery stores still scurred me a bit, I got into the habit of doing something that I chafe to admit to you good people… I made a lot of Ghetto Juleps.

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There are two types of people in my worldview: Those who say today is Cinco de Mayo, and those who say today is Kentucky Derby Eve Eve.

I’m one of the latter — hence, the blog records today’s date as the second of Three Days of Julep — but I’m well aware that I’m in the minority. Luckily, I’ve found the perfect cocktail to cover both bases on this not-really-a-holiday-laden day. The Zihautanejo Julep is out of my Death and Co. stolen menu playbook, and it’s a julep made with tequila.

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In the movie of my life, juleps might play the role of the piano in Shine, the spinning top in Inception, Pulp Fiction‘s glowing briefcase or Jerry Maguire‘s mission statement. They have given me pleasure personally and purpose professionally. During my lowest lows, when bartending was all I had going on and I was beginning to wonder what the hell had happened to me, I could fix a customer a damn good mint julep, watch his or her expression change for the better and know there was at least one thing I still did right enough to merit my getting out of bed. I’d also spent a birthday or two at the bar as a customer, cashing in on the staff’s golden rule: You can only order a mint julep for yourself when it is the day of your birth.

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