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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!)
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?)
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.
(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.)
Hey, summer? Ready when you are.
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
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!
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.
Have I really never discussed with you peeps my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream? Let me rephrase more accurately — my looooove, my looovvvvvelurrrrrvemmmmnomonomnomnomohmommymygoddammmnnn for mint chocolate chip ice cream? That’s just not possible. Is that possible?
[Point of information, as I've just now bothered to fact-check my own query: It is indeed not possible. I blogged about my mint-chocolate fetish last June when I made up the Alexander the Great, my mint chip-arak concoction. Yum.]
What’s really not possible, then, is that it’s taken me this long to talk about the Grasshopper.
MmmmmMMMMmmmmm nom nom NOM NOM NOM NOM
Now, I have never started a post with such gustatorial, guttural nonsense. So you must realize, people, me reeeeeally likey this cocktail.
And how could I not, as it contains the greatest food known to man: Mint. Chocolate. Chip. Ice. Cream. Zomg. (Mark Bittman would argue it’s not a “food” at all. Mark Bittman can suck it.) Srsly, I could live on mint chocolate chip ice cream, in either of its two glorious hues: au naturel white or 50s-sci fi green. It’s my ambrosia and my manna rolled into one. It’s my manbrosia!
The following all actually happened.
I was watching TV a few days ago when on came a commercial for the new Bud Light Lime Mojito. My first reaction was to groan, and to recall the cases of Coors Light Iced T that have been stacked near the checkout lines at my local supermarket for weeks; those also make me groan, anew, each time I must sidle by them to pay for my
thrice-weekly pint of ice cream habit groceries.
But my second reaction to the mojito beer was, shockingly (shocking I say!), this: That sounds pretty good, actually.
PhoBlograpHusband: “What do you want to do for our [second] anniversary [on June 5]?”
Blogtender: “Let’s, like — let’s go out and see Montreal, some part of the city we keep saying we should see but haven’t yet. Not anything too crazy, obvs [because I'm seven months pregnant] but something different.”
PhoBlograpHusband: “Yeah, we need to get off our couch this summer.”
Two nights ago:
Blogtender: “You know what I really want to do for our anniversary? I want to make cocktails and eat junk food and watch TV. On our couch.”
Ah, yes, while I believe the traditional second-anniversary gift is something like clocks or coffee or leather, chez Lorre it was a much more sublime trifecta. Smiley face-shaped chicken tenders and Mad Men (we just subscribed to this season on iTunes, NO SPOILERS LA LA LA LA) and, among other libations, this Lemon Raspberry Mint Ouzo-Ade.
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?
In Sean’s Ph.D. program, there lives a British lad named Harold Thorrington, all of 22 or 23 years of age. Of course his name is Harold Thorrington, for he is so very, very British, and of course his mates call him Harry. Harry Thorrington looks like the cuddly-button love child of Tony Blair and Paddington Bear. Really, his name is just so terribly goddamned British — the very utterance of it makes me want to punch a crumpet.
Like many British blokes with few years and countless pints under their pudgy belts, Harry (who really is quite lovely and keeps me in stitches, I must say) only knows how to drink one way: More. Before the holidays, he confessed to me the three cocktails he’d ever consumed, at least to his recollection: a mojito, a Cosmopolitan and… oh, pish posh, I can’t remember the third. Doesn’t matter. The point is, I assured him he’d certainly had very bad versions of those drinks, wherever he’d had them, and I resolved to make him the World’s Greatest versions soon.
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.
How did I never manage to invent the Maple Mint Fizz myself? Why did I have to move to Montreal to discover it?
The answer to the first question is: I did come close with the Martelorre (Maker’s, lemon, mint, ginger beer). To answer my second question: Because Le LAB is where everything wonderful, like Maple Mint Fizzes, happens, and also because only in Canada would “our variation of the mojito” include maple syrup.
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.