The Classic Mint Julep (from a Yankee)

The Hand-Crafted Mint Julep

by Warren Bobrow, Wild Table editor, food writer and cocktail whisperer


Heat and humidity is what says “Charleston, South Carolina” in the summertime. The air, thick with the sour smell of decay from the confluence of the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers at low tide. Fort Sumpter just out of reach, where the Civil War started they say. The mood somehow becomes somber around town. People run amok for the smallest things. Heat and the unrelenting breezes will do that — it makes them crazy!

Muddle mint and sugar — be gentle … it’s not a test of physical strength.

I was working as a chef at the Primrose House and Tavern. Joann Yaeger, the owner and creative force behind the restaurant, would gather me up at the end of a particularly busy night at the restaurant, under the broad piazzas that signified the architectural history of this former mansion, to learn the art of the hand-crafted mint julep. Bourbon would be at the ready. Sterling silver julep cups, polished to a crisp shine waiting in the wings, along with ice to be crushed, sugar to be muddled and mint just picked from the garden.

Add rye whiskey, the mother’s milk of the julep.

The Hand-Crafted Mint Julep

  1. Muddle fresh mint leaves and ice together to make a soft paste.
  2. Add a bit of brown sugar (sugar in the raw works best) and continue to muddle, adding more ice, and a splash or two of the good bourbon your pappy told you would make a fine drink.
  3. Add a touch more bourbon, some ice, some sugar, some mint. Never use metal on silver. I’ll rue the day that I allow a cocktail silver cup to touch metal other than silver. It’s just not done! The cup should frost up nicely when finished.
  4. Top off with another splash of Rye Whiskey. Use about 2 to 3 shots total for this drink.
  5. Garnish with fresh mint.

The Second Thing I Ever Published. The Saveur 100 (#30)

Tuna Melt originally published in Saveur Magazine.

Tuna Melt Canape
Enlarge Image Photo: Todd Coleman
I’ll never forget the tuna melt I used to have at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina: buttered white bread, browned to a crisp on a flattop grill; freshly made tuna salad dotted with diced celery and Georgia sweet onions; American cheese melting out the sides of the sandwich; and a side of Lay’s potato chips and slices of bread-and-butter pickles. I’ve re-created that classic tuna melt at home, and I’ve also made lots of other variations using different kinds of bread, cheese, and condiments. The results are always tasty. (See Tuna Melt Canapés.) —Warren Bobrow, Morristown, New Jersey 

Some recent writing for Williams-Sonoma with thanks for the re-print.

All This Rum! A New Tiki Bar Cocktail

Ever since I sat as a Rum Judge at the 2010 Ministry of Rum tasting competition in San Francisco, the whole direction of my spirits-writing career has changed. I used to only write about wine.

Then a flash went off: wine is so serious; why not write about something fun, like spirits?

I’ve always loved rum. Rum appeals to me.

Rum is a spirit woven from history. Flavors exist within rums that don’t reveal themselves in other lighter-colored liquors. I’m a fan of rums aged in used wooden casks that formerly held bourbon or cognac. The caramelized notes of smoke, butter and bittersweet chocolate reveal themselves beautifully with the white flower aromas of freshly crushed cane sugar.

What is good rum, and how does it differ from all other rums? I’m not entirely sure. But when you’re out on a yacht, somewhere between Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, nothing tastes so delicious with some coconut water ice.


Over the past few years, Tiki Bar cocktail lounges have revealed themselves as funky representations of times gone past. Tiki gives credence to the easier times in America.


Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco faithfully reproduces a dream Tiki bar located down off a decaying pier, jutting out into a world of rotting boats and handcrafted cocktails. If a stage set of liquid pleasures could be created, Smuggler’s Cove fits the West Coast genre to a T. Over on the East Coast, on the Island of Manhattan — described as the Greatest Island in the World – PKNY – formerly named Painkiller(the name is another story for another day) has a knack for Tiki as well.


Here’s a Tiki Bar cocktail you’ve never had before.


The Yachtsman’s Demise

3 oz. Kōloa Rum from Hawaii (use their Spiced Rum for this cocktail)

1 oz. fresh mango juice

1/2 tsp. freshly chopped coconut meat

1/2 tsp. freshly scraped ginger

3 drops Bitter End Thai Bitters

6 ice cubes made with coconut water and freshly grated nutmeg (just a bit, it’s strong stuff!)

1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum

Q-Ginger Ale to finish


Fill a cocktail shaker with fresh ice (reserve your coconut water ice for the glass). Add the Kōloa Rum to the shaker, then the fresh mango juice, coconut meat and ginger. Add the Bitter End Thai Bitters.


Shake and strain into a tall Tiki (ceramic) mug filled with your coconut water and grated nutmeg ice cubes. Float the Lemon Hart 151 Rum over the top, and finish with Q-Ginger Ale. Makes 1 cocktail.

Sleepwalker’s Delight?

Cocktails for Insomniacs

by Warren Bobrow, Wild Table editor, food writer and cocktail whisperer


This drink, code-named “The Sleepwalker’s Delight,” is of particular interest to those who, instead of sleeping, find themselves walking the floors at all hours of the night.

It’s an easy cocktail to make, especially when sleepwalking. Many of the ingredients hail to Europe, where meanderings in the nighttime are less suspect.

You won’t want to find yourself wallowing in your neighbor’s pool at 4 a.m., so be careful when sipping this warming cocktail. (Note: The aforementioned swimming pool reference is completely hypothetical and in no way related to an actual event. I plead the Fifth.)

The Somnambulist Cocktail

A few sips of this sleep-maker makes dreamweaving a whole lot easier. Cue the sheep.

  1. Pre-heat a large, chunky ceramic mug: Fill boiling hot water into the mug prior to cocktailing. Pour out just before making the drink.
  2. Prepare the spicy hot chocolate and add to the preheated mug. Add the liquors and sip carefully!

If your Somnambulist needs a chaser, try the film version of a sleepwalker’s cocktail, quite possibly the best horror film of all time. Sure, you’ll have nightmares, but you’re not sleeping anyway.

Cocktail Reading???

Featured writer: Warren Bobrow

Mark your calendar – Wednesday, Oct. 19 is the next Drink.Think reading event!

Once again, we’ve got a great line-up of writers slated to read from their work — and over the next few weeks, I’ll entice you with mini-biographies, starting this week with Warren Bobrow.

Now, if you’re out and about in the NY food and drink scene, surely you’ve run across this chap. Somehow, the man seems to be everywhere — He’s at spirits launch parties. He moderated a panel on food writing I attended at the IACP regional conference. He was front and center at a rum seminar I attended at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans (he’s a rum judge for the Ministry of Rum, so that makes perfect sense). And all the while, Warren manages to tweet up a storm like it’s an Olympic sporting event–go ahead, follow him @WarrenBobrow1I dare you.

Warren is a prolific writer off Twitter, too:  he’s the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Table on Wild River Review; he is a cocktail writer for William-Sonoma’s Blender Blog, Foodista and Serious Eats; and his research on Biodynamic and Organic Wine and Food will appear in the 2012 Oxford Encyclopedia of Food/Drink in America, Ed. 2.

Whew!  Come on out to Lolita Bar on Oct. 19 and hear what he has to say.

Early Fall Cocktail

I came up with this little beauty while fishing some leaves out of my pool on an unusually cold day — what to do when it’s too chilly to swim? Make a drink.

The Early Fall Cocktail is based on the premise of a cold winter coming. Days before the Labor Day holiday, it’s freezing cold here in the Northeast and I wanted to concoct something truly American for the upcoming holiday.

The anchor of this cocktail is the Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Whiskey, redolent with the flavors of late summer, and it’s easy to produce in large batches. Peaches are fresh now and grill beautifully.

The Early Fall Cocktail

  1. Heat a charcoal grill. Grill slices of peaches until uniformly brown and caramelized.
  2. Add ice, rye and vermouth to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  3. Chill, don’t shake. Add bitters.
  4. “Purée” the peaches with a cocktail muddler. Add 2 tablespoons of the grilled peach mash to a sterling silver julep cup and add some crushed ice.
  5. Pour rye and vermouth mixture into the sterling silver julep cup.
  6. Mix carefully with a wooden mixer — never use metal on silver (you know by now that’s my pet peeve).
  7. Serve with grilled corn and barbecued ribs that have been marinated with peaches and rye whiskey.

Culinary Cocktails

What happens when a man is snowbound with only his wits and his sideboard? He crafts a perfectly balanced flight of cocktails:  too cool!

Passage to India

We just had some snow, about 8 inches this time. The last time it was about two feet. Everything is covered in a fine white dust. It’s quite lovely to look at as long as you’re inside and not shoveling. A friend of mine just sent a lovely container of Fig and Pear Chutney. I had been looking at some photographs of India and it churned my imagination. There was a picture of the Ganges River comingonto the computer screen and I thought of a Passage to India cocktail.

  • 2 shots Bluewater Organic Vodka
  • 1 tablespoon of a spicy chutney (homemade if possible)
  • 1 or 2 saffron threads
  • Orange peel
  1. Add crushed ice and vodka to a cocktail shaker. Do not shake or stir.
  2. Add spicy chutney to a well-chilled martini glass.
  3. Strain iced vodka into the glass and garnish with saffron threads and an orange peel.

The Red Hour Cocktail

The Red Hour Cocktail’s inspiration comes from the Star Trek show of the same name. How completely rational people can go quite crazy when the clock strikes The Red Hour.

  • 2 shots Siesta Key White Rum
  • 1 or two drops of Bitter End Thai Bitters
  • Freshly squeezed orange and lime juice (just enough)
  • Q-Tonic Water
  1. Add a few cubes of ice to a cocktail shaker, then the rum, followed by bitters, then fruit juices.
  2. Shake. Strain onto fresh ice in a tall glass.
  3. Top with a few splashes of Q-Tonic Water and a RED Cherry.

The Pure Driven Snow

Another cool-as-ice cocktail. If you live anywhere outside the tropics this year, you’re in the snow belt and understand the inspiration for this drink.

  • 1 wheat beer such as Brooklyn Brewery Hopfen-Weisse
  • 2 shots Anchor Junipero Gin
  • 1 lime in chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar cane syrup
  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, pour in beer and gin.
  2. Add lime and syrup.
  3. Shake very gently, or the drink will foam wildly.
  4. Serve in a short glass with fresh ice.

Morning awake

  • 2 shots Calvados
  • 1 shot good cognac
  • Hot Black Tea to fill a mug
  • Scraping of fresh nutmeg
  1. Serve hot.

Sleepy time, sleepy time! 

Thirst Quenching Cocktails

Friends of mine just got back from attending the Tecate 500 off road race in Mexico. They scoffed at all the attention Mexico has received, often unfairly over the last few months. Mexico is a place of many incongruities. Our newspapers shout about how dangerous it is, but here in Baja California, it’s the same as it ever was … A mixture of ex-pats from the United States and back to the future locals who live on surfing, fish tacos and fine locally produced wines. Beer is popular too, as refreshment against the relentless sun. Lime is good for food and beer to raise the flavors up to higher levels (plus it acts as a preservative) and rum, as we all know is safer to drink than the local water.

The grueling, off-road car and motorcycle race known as the Tecate 500 is one of those events that make you thirsty before you even get out of the air-conditioning in your hotel into the blistering heat of Baja, California.

A quenching pair of rum cocktails: Trouble in Paradise and The 500 Cocktail.

The 500 Cocktail

  • 1 Tecate Mexican Beer
  • 2 shots Denizen Rum
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 2 splashes simple syrup
  • Fresh mint
  1. Muddle mint with lime chunks and simple syrup to a nice paste in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add some ice and the rum.
  3. Shake, pour into a chilled glass and top with Tecate.

I grew up between New Jersey, Europe and the British Virgin Islands. My family owned a sailboat and they lolled away the winter months basking in the sun and reveling in the trade winds that wound their way up from the Brazilian coast to the Caribbean Sea.

This little cocktail, a twist on the classic punch, is reminiscent of those enjoyed in the British Virgin Islands. Great local rums sold there have a rich history of flavors. Many of these speak the stories of pirates, privateers and forced hard labor in the relentless, brutal heat. Clean water sources are rare, rum costs less than water on many of these islands, so you drink rum!

Trouble in Paradise

  • 3 shots Denizen White Rum
  • 1 ounce each freshly squeezed lime, orange, grapefruit and lemon juices (to ward off scurvy)
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar or cane sugar syrup from Martinique
  • Coconut water, frozen in ice cube trays (I use Goya)
  • Several shakes Bitter End Thai Bitters
  • Splash club soda (use instead of soda water, you’ll need the addition of salt in the heat)
  • Orange and lime zest to garnish
  1. Add several cubes of coconut water ice to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add rum, fruit juices and bitters. (The Bitter End line of cocktail bitters may well be the most assertive and flavor-driven bitters I’ve ever tasted.)
  3. Shake and finish with a splash or two of club soda.
  4. Serve in an old fashioned glass, with several cubes of coconut water ice, garnished with lime and orange zest.