As summer draws on, I find myself relaxing into a slower pace, quitting work earlier and waking up later, all perks of my free-lance existence. Mid-afternoons find me lying on my deck with a beverage in hand, as I watch sailboats afar and hummingbirds nearby.
Which brings me to today’s subject: I will share with you a couple of my favorite concoctions, and I hope they delight you too.
Iced Moroccan Mint Tea
One of my fondest recollections of Morocco is their fabulous mint tea. I tried many times to reproduce it – in vain, until I recently fell upon a combination that satisfied me.
Jane Terjung, a contributor on this site, gave me some of her mint to plant at my house. Mint, by the way, grows like a weed in most places. I particularly loved hers because of its sweetness, which I found much more pleasing than the harsher spearmint I had.
Once her plant had taken hold, I collected about thirty leaves, rinsed them in cool water, bruised them gently between my hands, and dropped them to the bottom of a jug, which I filled with a cup or two of freshly boiled water. I mixed it well and let it rest, covered, for about ten minutes.
I then prepared a cup of green tea (I used a Matcha variety), which I only allowed to infuse for a minute or two. I wanted the flavor without any bitterness. I sweetened it to satisfaction (white sugar, usually) and mixed it with the mint concoction. I then poured the whole thing, mint leaves and all, into a fresh, clear glass jug filled with ice cubes, and added some ice water to top it off. A long cocktail spoon reached far enough into the jug to blend it all together, I procured a long straw to sip with, and there I had it. Not the “official” version of Moroccan Mint Tea, which you will find some information about on Wikipedia, but one that made me very happy and transported me back to leisurely times in Morocco.
Mint Julep, Virgin or Not
A Southern-born friend of mine used to say, at the least rise of temperature and in an accent straight from the grandest Louisiana plantations: ”Aah declahre, it is unseasonably wahm. Mint joolep, anyone?”
This phrase remained etched in my mind, but I never had a mint julep until recently. My experiment with Moroccan mint tea encouraged me to give it a shot, so to speak. Not one of the many cookbooks I own even listed mint julep, so I resorted to my old friend, the web.
The first video I fell upon satisfied me enough to recommend it. New Orleans’ Chris McMillan is full of interesting tidbits about the history of this drink. We discover that the name “julep” takes root in ancient Persia, where the word “golab” described rose water. From there it became the flavored syrup, or julep, that we now use to make this drink.
Most people associate mint julep with the Kentucky Derby, but that version is alas manufactured “en masse” from a premixed solution, which does no justice to the true mint julep.
This is how my version turned out. I collected, again, a whole bunch of leaves from Jane’s vigorous plant, rinsed them, bruised them slightly, and dropped most of them at the bottom of a chilled cocktail shaker. I poured an ounce or two of Bourbon over them (Maker’s Mark is a favorite, but I imagine Jim Beam would be just fine) and let them get acquainted for a while. In the meantime, I prepared a syrup on the stove, with a cup of water and a cup of sugar; at the last minute, I added the rest of the bruised mint leaves to flavor the syrup. I then filled the shaker with ice cubes (on top of the Bourbon and mint leaves), and poured the warm syrup over them. I affixed the top, shook five or six times, took the top off, and poured through the shaker’s strain filter into a tall, frozen glass – et voilà! Stick a sprig of mint or two in it and imagine yourself on that plantation porch. Aaaaaaahhhh…..
Now for the Virgin Version: simply replace the Bourbon with Ginger Ale. It is stunningly delicious in its own right. Just add the Ginger Ale last, as you don’t want the hot syrup to kill the bubbles… To substitute for the Bourbon/Mint interaction, just pour an ounce of hot water on the mint leaves instead of the Bourbon, then proceed with the recipe.
Many of you are no doubt shaking your heads and thinking: ”Uh huh, Missy, that is NOT how it’s done”. I am happy to send you once more to Wikipedia, which will tell you that there are as many ways to make mint juleps as there are bartenders/mixologists.
P.S.: Check out Jane’s latest post about her gardening adventures.