Tag Archives: mint

snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | making adjustments + slowing down

I stood outside in my garden, atop the raised kale and Swiss chard bed, and pressed my cracked phone up to my face, eagerly asking, “Are you outside yet? Is it cloud-covered there? Can you see it, too?” It was just after 8:00PM last Friday night, and my mother and I were standing outside in our respective time zones, which differed by two hours, watching the full, Harvest Moon rise.

“My” moon was full and golden, bloated and sated with possibility, swelling with pride, as it slowly emerged from the east, over the neighboring trees. Back home in Florida, “hers” stood prominently overhead, appearing a little smaller due to its rise, less distorted by the horizon, yet regally shining its sun-reflected light on her driveway, awash on her face.

We marveled at the fact that both of us were observing the very same event, at the very same time, each witnessing differing perspectives. It made the world feel just a little smaller. We stood in silence for a moment and then said our slow goodbyes. I ended the call and sat down on the cedar beams of the raised garden. At first, all was quiet and rather hazy, but as I settled in, the stars came out of hiding, the early evening bats frenetically fluttered above, and the crickets restarted their unified song.

The evening was alive, and, at long last, so was my mind.

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mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | on embracing the crazy-faith

So, what’s the craziest dream you’ve ever dreamed?

You know, the one that wakes you up in the middle of the night and compels you to turn on the light that’s resting on the nightstand, all flustered and sweaty, in order to write down its contents in a scribbled, shaky, illegible scrawl. Chasing your pencil. The kind of harried writing that begs a shot of something strong. Whiskey-strong. You’re wide awake; you know what you want; you’re ready.

This is what life should be about, right? I know it’s kind of heady for a Saturday morning, but this is no ordinary, Saturday morning. Dude, I didn’t even mean to make a parallel here with the Kentucky Derby. I promise that I didn’t, but it so fits. I don’t know that much history on the Derby, but I do know that today’s particular, racing combination of horse and human is known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

I don’t have a horse on the line; perhaps, you do. And I wish you the best of luck. Luck. The very definition of the word means “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” I’ve been thinking about the term lately. And as a result, I’m choosing to use its placement in my conversation more wisely.

mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | holly & flora

mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | holly & flora

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pimm’s cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub

You know those blogs that actually inspire you? To do more, to attempt more, to think outside your norm? I can’t say when exactly I started following Sherrie Castellano‘s colorful, plant-based blog, With Food & Love, but I can definitely say that I was immediately smitten. Sherrie is a certified health coach, focusing on a plant-based diet, and has the most engaging and vibrant IG account. Sherrie, along with Renée Byrd of Will Frolic for Food, put together the most superb summer cocktail round-up, #DRINKTHESUMMER, highlighting summer’s in-season flavors with innovative twists.

I’m super stoked to be a part of this drink-driven mayhem and talk about how Pimm’s happily takes up so much of my summer. Let’s raise a glass, soak it all in, and drink the summer.

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

I’m leading this post with some serious gratitude. As I sit down to type this post, my fingers feel heavy, and my back aches from a long shift. I take a deep sigh, and all that immediately comes to mind are the stressful matters: the to-dos, the deadlines, the hectic scenes throughout my workday, or that impatient guest who yelled at me, demanding a last-minute table. I find myself so tempted to quickly write out the negative and expound upon the pressing matters. I curl my fingers into a fist. Sometimes, you just need a release, you know?

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

Instead, I pour myself a glass of rosé and lightly pet my tabby cat, who gracefully jumps onto my mouse pad.

Tonight, after a particularly stressful evening, I am resisting the urge for a negative slant and writing about the flip-side. There is always something beautiful happening, something exciting to report, something that brings a smile. I think that everyone  who has worked, in some capacity, within the restaurant or hospitality business can relate to the heaviness that frequently ensues. Whatever your role, you’re always in character, making people happy and giving them the best dose of hospitality that you can, even when you feel like crap.

I seriously perform my best, however, when my “reservoir” is full. When I take the time to breathe, spend time with my loved ones, get my fingers into the garden soil, or squeeze in a soak in the tub, I am a better person to everyone around me. Steve and I took a day off together this past week to recharge, let go of our obligations, and celebrate the wedding of two of our dearest friends, Erin and John.

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

Earlier this evening, despite the madness of a 45-minute wait, an unexpected rainstorm that drove guests indoors, and an oversold reservation book, I pulled strength and peace from that reservoir within, which I had filled earlier during the week.

Erin and John said their wedding vows at the beautiful Lyons Farmette, along the Front Range, here in Colorado. The sun shone through puffy, white clouds, and the chickens and goats were roaming free, singing along with the chorus the one-acre farm had already begun. I felt so at home with their small group of loved ones. We played corn-hole, attempted life-sized Jenga, strolled through a verdant garden, sat by a mountain stream, and built a late-afternoon bonfire.

Love was in the air; it always is. Life is good. It’s what you make it out to be. There are good times, so-so times, and terrible times that you’d like to forget. I’m choosing to focus on the positive and let those accompanying feelings dictate my thought-life. Tomorrow is my day off, and I’m setting aside time too see a good friend {that’s you, Batya!} and taking advantage of the life within my garden. Cucumbers are abundant, mint is going crazy, and I have a full bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur beckoning me. I know what to do.

Now, ’bout that cocktail.

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

If you’re new to Pimm’s No. 1, it’s a gin-based liqueur with notes of spices and citrus. It’s great on the rocks with lemonade or ginger ale, but it’s stellar with berries, cucumbers and citrus slices. You really can’t mess up a Pimm’s cocktail. Let me know if you have, and I’ll fix this post and warn the others what not to do. 😉

I’d heard about Pimm’s, but I’d never tried a Pimm’s cocktail, until I visited Scotland a few years ago. A new friend ordered me a “Pimm’s Cup” at a small, stonewalled pub, and I figured I’d give it a try. It was pretty much summer-in-a-glass. The traditional version calls for a simple combination of Pimm’s and lemonade, along with some mint, orange slices, strawberries, and cucumbers. For my version, I perpetuated the tart citrus-y component but added the depth of summer blackberries and the bright notes from mint and fresh strawberries. Pimm’s even makes a limited edition Blackberry & Elderflower version, so they’re already onto this flavor combination.

If I’ve tempted you already, I’m going to hit you with the bad news: you’ll have to wait a week to enjoy this cocktail. But it will be completely worth your time. One of the best parts of this cocktail is the tart and refreshing addition of a shrub or drinking vinegar. Read this post I wrote about shrubs earlier this year, if you’re thirsty for more information on its origins and its overall likeability.

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

pimm’s cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub

  • 1 1/2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur
  • 1 ounce blackberry + lemon zest shrub {see recipe below}
  • 1/2 ounce Solerno blood orange liqueur
  • 3-4 ounces ginger ale, to taste {I used Q Ginger}
  • 2 strawberries, quartered
  • 2 cucumber slices, plus additional slices or spears for garnish
  • 6 mint leaves, plus one mint sprig for garnish
  • 2-3 lemon wheels
  • 1 sprig tarragon
  1. Fill a tall, Pilsner-style glass with ice. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing tin, muddle the cucumber slices and mint leaves well.
  3. Add ice, Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur, blackberry + lemon zest shrub, and Solerno blood orange liqueur.
  4. Shake vigorously for a solid ten seconds and strain into the iced glass.
  5. Garnish with the quartered strawberries, cucumber slices or spears, mint sprig, lemon wheels, and tarragon sprig.
  6. Finish with 3-4 ounces of a zesty ginger ale.
  • This recipe yields one cocktail.
  • If you don’t have a Pilsner-style glass, just use a taller glass, so you have enough room for the ginger ale and the multiple garnishes. I recently broke my last set of Pilsner glasses, so I used a stemless wine glass in a pinch. Hey, it tastes the same, right?
  • Look for a zesty ginger ale that packs a spicy bite. I really like Q’s ginger ale for this reason. Avoid an overly sugary style.

IMG_8493 pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

I made my blackberry shrub about a week ago, so it was ready to drink today. Shrubs are basically a tart, refreshing, vinegar-based combination of fruit {or vegetables} and sugar. I keep some sort of shrub in my refrigerator at all times. They’re the perfect addition to soda water, and they add both tart and sweet components to cocktails in one sweep. This particular recipe is ace, if it’s your first attempt.

blackberry + lemon zest shrub

  • 1 1/2 cups blackberries
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, muddle the blackberries, along with the lemon zest and cane sugar, being sure to crush the blackberries and express as much of the juice as you can.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring the mixture, when you think about it.
  3. Pour the mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing the berries to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  4. Add the apple cider vinegar to the blackberry mixture, whisking until any undissolved sugar is incorporated.
  5. Pour the vinegar mixture into a clean mason jar, cover with a lid, and store it in the refrigerator for a week, so that the flavors integrate. If you think about it, shake the mixture occasionally.
  • Compost the blackberry solids or use them as a topping for a small tart or a delicious addition to yogurt and granola.
  • You may substitute lime zest, if you don’t have lemons on hand, but I really prefer how the tart lemons play with the notes in the Pimm’s No.1.
  • If you have a lot of mint at your fingertips, add a few leaves to the mixture of blackberries, zest, and sugar, muddling well. It will take your cocktails to another level with the added depth.
  • Always use organic berries and citrus, since their skins absorb chemicals so easily. You don’t want those in your cocktails.

pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora pimm's cup with blackberry + lemon zest shrub | holly & flora

So, how popular is Pimm’s in your bar cart? Is this your first taste? If it’s not your summer staple already, give this recipe a go. It’s not too heavy on the alcohol, either. Feel free to swap out my garnish suggestions with whatever is blooming or seasonal in your garden. I love adding rhubarb, lemon, borage, or raspberries to my Pimm’s cocktails. Why not a raspberry shrub? Just substitute the blackberries with whatever berries you have in your fridge or in your garden.

Cheers to a week of filling up your reservoir, to seeking out the brilliant and positive, to focusing on the good that’s out there, and to making time for friends.



Oh! And here are the other awesome and inspiring cocktails within Sherrie and Renée’s blogtastic #DRINKTHESUMMER roundup. You’re thirsty. I’m thirsty. We’re both dying to try a few of these very soon. There’s something here for everyone, whether you want/need a little booze in your life or not. Cheers!

With Food + Love | Fresh Heirloom Bloody Marys with Old Bay and Spicy Pickles

Will Frolic for Food | The Sugar Hollow: Watermelon Gin Cocktail with Cardamom and Lime

Kale & Caramel | Sweet Coconut Slushie with Spiced Agua Fresca de Jamaica

Hummingbird High | Thyme Lemonade

Brooklyn Supper | Bloody Maria Cocktails

Cake Over Steak | Blackberry Bourbon Cocktail

Loves Food, Loves to Eat | Coconut Nectarine White Wine Spritzers

Dunk & Crumble | Ginger Peach Whiskey Smash

Tasty Yummies | When Figs Fly: Spiced Rum Fig Kombucha Cocktail

Feed Me Phoebe | Pimm’s Cup Cocktail with Fresh Ginger, Lime and Tarragon

Earthy Feast | Strawberry, Basil and Pink Peppercorn Negroni

Ginger & Toasted Sesame | Blackberry Peach Margarita with Spicy Salt

O&O Eats | The Long Hope: a Honeydew Cucumber Gin Cocktail

my name is yeh | Nutella Egg Cream

Faring Well | Sparkling Melon Coolers with Muddled Raspberries and Mint

Beard and Bonnet | Pineapple and Cilantro Moscow Mule

The Pancake Princess | Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs

Edible Perspective | Rosé Slushies

Vegetarian ‘Ventures | Sparkling Peppered Plum Blush

The Broken Bread | Blackberry, Cucumber and Mint Gin Spritzer

Tending the Table | Plum Spritzer with Ginger and Kafir Lime

Appeasing a Food Geek | Sugar Plum Margarita

She Eats | Fizzy Lime and Blackberry Shrub

holly & flora | Pimm’s Cup with Blackberry and Lemon Zest Shrub

Vigor and Sage | Peachy Tomato Basil Gin and Tonic

The Pig & Quill | Raspberry Basil Gingerade Fizz

Hungry Girl por Vida | Peanut Butter and Berry Smoothie

A Brown Table | Fig and Bourbon Summer Smash

The Clever Carrot | 5 Minute White Peach Margaritas

Cookie and Kate | Watermelon Sangria

le jus d’orange | Peach Yogurt Soju and Ginger Plum Kombucha Cocktail

Chocolate + Marrow | Raspberry Thyme Smash

The Bojon Gourmet | Basil Pluot Pimm’s Cup

Snixy Kitchen | Sparkling Asian Pear and Mint Iced Tea

what’s cooking good looking | Watermelon Basil Colada

i am a food blog | Thyme Gin and Tonics

Fix Feast Flair | Peachy Kentucky Mules

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rhubarb + strawberry shrub mojito | the reset button

It’s amazing what a new job situation will do to your life. There is always a transition. To navigate that transitional time well, we are encouraged to slow down, settle into the newer routine, make room for exercise, focus on our breath, and keep calm and eat, drink, or do something to balance it all out.

It is so much easier said than actually done.

The first four months of this year were a financially stressful time for me. I was only working one evening each week at the restaurant, and my paid freelance jobs had stalled. In late April, I decided to take on another job, buying wine and spirits for a small wine shop here in town. The pay wasn’t great, but I kept my eyes on the promised opportunities: conducting wine-based trips, maintaining a website, and curating their social media.

It’s quite amusing how untimely life can be {or timely, perhaps}. As soon as I made that commitment to become a wine buyer, within just a couple of weeks, I was offered a raise and more shifts at the restaurant. It was an offer I couldn’t decline. Within a week, I was slammed with some writing and photography assignments. Looking back at this crazy time, I am actually shaking my head and laughing. I had to make one of the toughest decisions this year. I had to make a choice, and that choice required me to go back on my word.

I turned in my notice to the shop. I felt like absolute crap. Had I known what was coming my way only two weeks in advance, I would never have accepted that new job.

strawberry rhubarb shrub mojito | holly & flora

I truly wanted to just stop working at the wine shop and pretend this all hadn’t happened. Instead, I gave them proper notice, while simultaneously jumping into my new role at the restaurant. I don’t even remember much of late April, and May was a complete blur. There were a few 60-hour work weeks, copious amounts of tears, second helpings of wine, and nights where I fell asleep on my desk.

My sleep schedule was so wrecked that I was able to call my mom on two occasions, while she was getting ready for work at 5:30 in the morning. She lives in Florida, so she is two hours ahead of me. I hadn’t gone to bed yet. It was 3:30 my time, and I had to be at work at 8:00. I was breaking down. Forget about those deep breaths or proper exercise or healthy eating or, while we’re at it, a healthy relationship with your significant other.

strawberry rhubarb shrub mojito | holly & flora

There is a silver lining to this story. I promise.

Although I’m still recovering from the exhaustion from the last two months’ events, I am proud of myself that I persevered. I didn’t call in sick, I gave myself grace for not keeping the house clean, and I reinforced bridges that I could have potentially burned. I even capped off that whirlwind of craziness by successfully {more like miraculously!} finishing my first half-marathon. It was a rite of passage and really let me know that I’m more powerful than I give myself credit. We are all more powerful than we give ourselves credit.

I know all of us have piled on too much at once, whether or not we foresaw the outcome. How have you recovered? What tips to you have for getting the balance just right? I’m sure we can all benefit from further discussion.

rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito | holly & flora rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito | holly & flora rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito

I am happy to create more time to relax, get back to enjoying this blog, and run a little more. I am especially giving more attention to simply relaxing. My favorite moment last week was lying down in the back yard and staring up at the clouds. No phone. No active thinking. Just drifting.

And more time for cocktails.

Back in early March, I wrote a detailed post on how to make shrubs or drinking vinegars. They are a refreshing additive to cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, or just a little soda water. As I mentioned previously, a shrub is basically fruit, or even vegetables, combined with two other components: sugar and vinegar. After the correct ratio of those ingredients integrate over a little time, the result is a perfect balance of tartness, sugar, acidity, and texture. Shrubs are mouth-watering and concentrated, and they taste amazing when combined with soda water or integrated into a cocktail.

I made this rhubarb and strawberry shrub and have loved adding a little to homemade lemonade recently. I think I loved it best in a mojito. My mint is going crazy, so I have had to be super creative with using it in as many was as possible.

rhubarb + strawberry shrub

  • 10 ounces rhubarb, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 6 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar.
  2. Vigorously muddle the fruit. You really want to get out as much juice from the fruits, as you can.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for three days, stirring the mixture occasionally.
  4. Add the white wine vinegar, muddle the fruit a little, and stir to integrate any undissolved sugar.
  5. Strain the mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer into a clean jar.
  6. Return the shrub to the refrigerator and let it hang out there for one week, in order for the flavors to integrate.
  7. Shake well before using and either make a cocktail or add a little shrub to your soda water.

rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito | holly & flora rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito | holly & flora rhubarb strawberry shrub mojito | holly & flora

Mojitos were always so time-consuming to make, when I was behind the {muddling} stick. I know other bartenders, who would make theirs halfheartedly, so that no one would order them again. I actually found the process quite therapeutic, and I loved the taste of a well-incorporated mojito. I still do. For a little more history on the mojito, read this post on PUNCH.

Many recipes call for muddling raw sugar with mint leaves. I chose to make a mint simple syrup, instead. I’m using it for some orange-mint coconut cream pops, and I figured it would work perfectly in a mojito.

mint simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • a handful of freshly cut mint leaves
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar on the stove, just until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and toss in the mint leaves.
  3. Let steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain the mint leaves and cool.
  5. Store it in a clean, glass jar and use it up within a couple of weeks.

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rhubarb + strawberry shrub mojito

  • 2 quarters of a lime
  • 1/2 ounce mint simple syrup
  • 2 sprigs of mint
  • 2 ounces white rum, like Downslope
  • 1 1/2 ounces rhubarb + strawberry shrub
  • soda water
  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the lime, simple syrup, and one sprig of mint. Save the other sprig for a garnish. Don’t slack. Muddle it well!
  2. Add ice, rum, and the shrub. Cover and give it a shake or two.
  3. Pour into a tall glass and top with soda water.
  4. Garnish with another sprig of mint, find a sunny spot, and sip slowly.
  • This recipe yields one drink. It is also a little tart because of the shrub. I like it that way, but you can always tone down the amount for a more subtle mojito. And adding more soda water also dilutes it!
  • If you don’t want to make the mint simple syrup, simply substitute regular simple syrup and add a little extra mint when muddling.
  • This multiplies easily for a pitcher drink. Just combine all of the ingredients, reserving the soda water for when you are ready to serve.

strawberry rhubarb shrub mojito | holly & flora strawberry rhubarb shrub mojito | holly & flora strawberry rhubarb shrub mojito | holly & floraCheers to an amazing week ahead!

Has your spring been consumed with herbaceous cocktails and fruity shrubs? If so, let me know what you’re doing. If not, get out and make yourself some!



garden mint juleps

I know that I am about a month late to celebrate the deliciousness of mint juleps; the Kentucky Derby, the event that prompts one to don fabulous hats and sip on this refreshing cocktail, happens every second week in May.  Although my timeliness is a little off, the mint in my backyard is, at last, ragingly fragrant, ripe, and ready for the picking.  Fresh mint simply screams for homemade iced tea, mojitos, and, of course, mint juleps.

If you’ve ever planted mint, you know that it takes over your yard, and soon, you have more mint than you know what to do with.  All summer long, you can unabashedly toss it into freshly brewed iced tea, or you can take a small amount of time to make some mint simple syrup that can transform your cocktails, teas, and other concoctions.

Baby mint sprigs ready for harvest. Mint thrives in partial shade environments and will take over your yard or garden, if you let it. It makes a great ground cover and always makes you smile, when you “accidentally” step on it.

How do you harvest mint?  Simply take some garden shears and cut just above what I call a “t” line.  Don’t cut the entire stalk off from the ground.  Select a stalk and count up at least two or three leaves up.  Cut just above the leaves, as shown below.  Easy!

Clipping the mint leaves.

Ingredients for Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar {I use raw sugar}
  • 2 cups freshly cut, coarsely chopped mint {stalks are fine}

Steps for preparing the Syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar by stirring.
  2. Remove from heat, upon being dissolved.
  3. Place chopped mint into a bowl or Mason jar and pour simple syrup on top.
  4. Set aside for two hours, so that the mint steeps.
  5. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve or chinois and place in an airtight container.  The syrup keeps refrigerated for about a week.

Be sure to set aside a few sprigs of mint to use to garnish your mint juleps.  Snip a few sprigs and place them in a vase of water.  They will survive on your table or counter-top for several days, storing them in this manner.

Making the mint julep cocktail is the easiest part of the process, once your mint simple syrup is made.  Simply pack a cocktail glass full of shaved or crushed ice, pour bourbon on top, add the mint simple syrup, stir the cocktail, and top with a mint sprig!  I found the most adorable glass stirrers from a vintage-modern shop here in town, Lee Alex Decor, one of my favorite places to find cocktail accessories.  I couldn’t resist the garden theme!

Ingredients for the Garden Julep

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup {to taste}
  • crushed ice
  • mint sprig, for garnish

I picked up this Colorado-made bourbon from Divino Wine and Spirits, off Broadway, in Denver this afternoon.  Peach Street Distillers makes some of the most innovative spirits.  They are a small-batch operation, based in Pallisade, Colorado, and only make about a barrel a day {talk about small-batch!}.  The corn is sourced from the western slope of Colorado, and the final result is an aromatic, hand-numbered, balanced bourbon.  If you can get your hands on it, do so!

One other side note:  mint juleps are traditionally made with crushed or shaved ice.  If you are unable to find some {one friend of mine says that Good Times sells it by the bag!}, simply place ice cubes in a clean t-shirt or cheesecloth, cover, and smash several time with a mallet or hammer.  That’s what I had to do today!