Today I discovered that the official drink of Thurby is the old fashioned. How appropriate, since Thurby is billed as Louisville's Day at the Races and the old fashioned is the official drink of the city of Louisville.
(As an aside I should note for those of you not in the know that Thurby has become the designated day for Louisvillians and those native to the area to go to the track. Oaks Day, the day before the Kentucky Derby, used to be the day we would all head to Churchill Downs, but that's become just as busy and overrun with out-of-towners as Derby, so we moved our day back by one and gave the day a funny name. Holiday invented. I suppose now we all have to take Thursday off as well as Friday and Saturday.)
And I have this lovely jar of violet blackberry simple syrup that's just begging to be used. So let's mix up a blackberry old fashioned (AKA the Purple Thurby). As a nod to my being raised on the Indiana side of things, I've added in a little of Huber's Starlight Blackberry Whiskey.
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz blackberry simple syrup
1/2 oz Huber's Starlight Blackberry Flavored Whiskey
3 dashes Fee Brothers walnut bitters
Garnish: Fresh basil and blackberries
Add the bourbon, blackberry simple, blackberry whiskey and bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and garnish with fresh basil and blackberries.
Blackberry Simple Syrup
2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Add ingredients to a saucepan and on medium-high until the sugar has dissolved and the it starts to simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then turn the heat down for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, let it cool completely and double strain into a container. Keep refrigerated. Use within a few weeks. If you add a little vodka, it will keep much longer.
I love blackberries. In summer, picking them right off the bush and eating them while still warm from the sun, they explode with flavor. You get a hit of the tartness from them, then their blackberry sweetness weighs in and it's a lovely combination on the tongue. It's too early for blackberries, but this time of year, I crave blackberries and peaches and all the things I can only get in July and August.
But I'm smart.
I freeze local blackberries and peaches for just this time of year, and right now, the purple-red hue of the blackberry simple syrup begs to be added into a cocktail. Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, so in keeping with julep week, here's a Blackberry Julep recipe. Traditionally, the garnish is mint for a julep, but I've got fresh Thai basil and lemon verbena in the garden, so I'll try those out instead. You could even go for a rosemary garnish.
2 oz bourbon
3/4 oz blackberry simple syrup
5-7 mint leaves (or basil, or lemon verbena)
Garnish: sprig of mint (or basil or lemon verbena)
In a mixing glass, combine bourbon, blackberry syrup and the mint (or basil or verbena) leaves and muddle just a bit. Add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into an ice-filled julep cup and garnish with whatever herb you used for muddling. Put the straw right next to the garnish and enjoy a little taste of summer.
So good! This was voted the best drink ever at the 2017 informal Wibbels Derby gathering. I think the best part was 1) using a kitchen torch to make individual toasted marshmallows to use to garnish each drink. 2) Eating the toasted marshmallows once you finished the drink! The only bad part was my husband kept sneaking into the kitchen to the eat the extras I'd toasted.
1 1/2 oz Kentucky bourbon 90-100 proof
1/2 oz Ballotin chocolate whiskey
3/4 oz Toasted marshmallow syrup (see below)
3 dashes Fee Brothers chocolate bitters
Mint for garnish
Toasted Marshmallow for garnish
Put the first four ingredients into the mixing glass and add ice. Stir until combined and strain into a julep cup filled with fresh crushed ice. Take a sprig of mint, spank it across the back of your hand and put in in the drink right next to the straw. Impale the marshmallow on a cocktail straw and put it next to the drinking straw. Try not to eat the marshmallow right away.
Toasted Marshmallow Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
10-12 large marshmallows (Must be toasted - use the stove or a kitchen torch. Or a fire if you have one)
1 tsp vanilla
Heat the water and sugar on the stove until it is dissolved and starts to simmer. Add the toasted marshmallows and let them dissolve. Simmer for 3 minutes. Watch it carefully because it WILL boil over. Take it off the stove and let it cool completely. Add the vanilla extract. If you want to know how good it's going to taste, you can taste-test it. But it will be hard to stop. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve or cheesecloth and keep in the fridge. Add a bit of vodka to make it last 4-6 weeks.
It's Derby week, y'all. Finally, one week out of the year where juleps can be enjoyed and celebrated! Juleps get a lot of hate, and at the track, they aren't particularly tasty, but when you think about it, a mint julep is a riff on on old fashioned.
Think about it: a classic old fashioned is about 2 ounces of bourbon or rye and small amount of sweetener, say 1/4 to 1/2 ounce. This is very similar in proportion to the mint julep. They traditionally start with two ounces of bourbon and add in about 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, getting some of the mint flavor by muddling the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass. But an old fashioned thrives on its bitters, and I wanted to do the same here.
Ballotin Whiskey makes a chocolate mint variety and it tastes just like you're eating a thin mint. So why not put it in a julep, and feel like you're sneaking a girl scout cookie while at the track or enjoying a Derby party?
Thin Mint Julep
1.5 oz Old Forester bourbon
1.5 oz Ballotin Chocolate Mint
15 drops Scrappy's chocolate bitters
Garnish: Sprig of fresh mint.
Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain and pour into a julep cup filled with crushed or cracked ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint that you've spanked across the other wrist. Spanking the mint wakes up the mint, lightly bruising some of the leaves, making them more aromatic. Next, put the straw into the drink right at the mint so that your nose dips into the mint every time you take a sip. Try to drink slowly.
Heather Wibbels is a cocktail enthusiast who spends her time thinking about cocktails, researching cocktails and making cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.