Drink About It

Absinthe Menta Julep

Drink About it! is a new series of original cocktail recipes from the Drink Everything! contributors and shorter, off-the-cuff reviews and write ups of spirits, bartending personnel and other miscellania. Occasionally we will attempt to recreate a memorable drink from a night out or feature a signature cocktail from some on the bigger names in the biz. Today, to launch the series, we bring you something original and━frankly━something good ‘n weird: the absinthe menta julep.

Murray Stenson making a much more traditional absinthe julep.

#DrinkAboutIt: The Absinthe Menta Julep
Think psychotropic snow cone.

1 ¾ oz. (52 ml) absinthe
½ oz. (15 ml) Brancamenta
¼ oz. (7.5 ml) simple syrup
dash bitters [optional]

Glassware: julep cup or rocks glass
Garnish: mint sprig

Add simple syrup [and bitters] to a julep cup or rocks glass.
Fill with crushed ice.
Add absinthe.
Top with extra crushed ice.
Gently pour Brancamenta over crushed ice.
Garnish with fresh mint & serve with a straw.

When preparing this drink it is very important to gently pour the Brancamenta over the crushed ice so that it does not fully incorporate with the rest of the drink. This allows the imbiber to control the sweetness and mint flavor, and makes for a very visually pleasing experience. We even prefer to do without the traditional julep cup and use a clear rocks glass instead. This way you can watch as the Brancamenta slowly trickles down into the rest of the spirits. But before we get carried away, why an absinthe julep in the first place?

Bourbon-based juleps are overplayed. They are an early summer staple, but they typically fail to deliver. Dreams of sweet corn, oak and vanilla all mellowed by mint are met with watered down, overly sweetened bourbon and ostentatious mint plumage. They’re seriously lacking in the flavor department and are far too easy to quaff, rather than slowly enjoy. Which is preferable. Most of the time.

I’ve never, in all my drinking career, had a satisfyingly minty enough mint julep. It seems impossible to create enough mint flavor outside of infusing the mint in bourbon or using expensive mint essential oil. Out of desperation I turned to Brancamenta, Fernet-Branca’s sweeter, mintier, much less popular relative. I find Brancamenta can very easily overpower all other ingredients in cocktails, save Fernet, and, for my palate, it is far too sweet to drink on its own (try pouring it over ice cream). Too minty? Sounds like just what a Mint Julep needs, if you drop [most of] the added sugar, that is. One problem, Brancamenta and bourbon don’t jive very well. What to do, what to do?

Fret not [or Fernet not?], as with most problems in life, we can find a solution in absinthe. Substituting absinthe for bourbon does a few important things, the herbal wormwood adds a bitterness that plays with the Brancamenta very well, the higher proof of the spirit turns this into a slow sipper rather than a gulper, and it’s not nearly as sweet. Problem solved. Juleps for everyone!

Side note: bitters are optional because there are already a lot of flavors going on between the absinthe and the Brancamenta. It’s easy to overdo it with this one, so add only a single dash of whichever cocktail bitters you’re in the mood for. Mole bitters makes for a complex, earthy drink. Creole bitters noticeably brightens the flavors. Celery bitters makes for a very lively, herbaceous sipper. Citrus bitters, particularly lemon or grapefruit, make a very refreshing summer cocktail. Sometimes we like to keep it simple and forgo the bitters altogether.

Ever had Brancamenta? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Happy drinking!

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