So, judging a julep recipe contest is harder than I thought it would be. I know, I know: I can feel the eyerolls from here. Tough job, Bourbon Babe! But hey, you taste 10 different – VERY different, in some cases – juleps and try to pick a winner. Especially when you sense that some of the very best ones are toward the end, but then wonder if they truly are the best ones, or if they just seem like the best ones because the room is suffused with the heady scent of mint and you’ve sipped from six or seven julep glasses and you are feeling really happy. And you’re wondering how you are supposed to judge “originality” on a scale of 1 to 10. If an entry is really out there – so original that if it wasn’t labeled “julep,” you’d never, ever guess – is that a 10? Or a 1?
These were some of the challenges facing my fellow judges and I last night at the 10th annual Four Roses Rose Julep Recipe Contest. The juleps we sampled contained everything from maple syrup to melon, from pesto to pineapple. Some were presented in glass so that we could better appreciate their color (we judged on presentation, too, as well as aroma and, of course, taste). Others were served in traditional silver julep cups, including the one by St. Charles Exchange mixologist Colin Shearn, who said, ”You should know what a julep is from across the room.” (That’s his entry in my hand, above.)
When the score sheets were tallied, the winner was Isaac Fox of Volare, with a watermelon-flavored julep. Second place went to Adam Breitenstein of the Silver Dollar, with an orange-kissed julep, and Jacqueline Zykan of Doc Crow’s took third with a tiki-inspired concoction featuring pineapple and ginger. I will share the recipes as soon as I receive them.
Thanks to Four Roses for inviting me to participate (and for the bottle of Single Barrel signed by master distiller Jim Rutledge). And cheers to my fellow judges: bartender extraordinaire Joy Perrine, bourbon journalist Fred Minnick and Forecastle Festival founder (try saying THAT after 10 juleps) JK McKnight.
Here is the winning julep from Volare’s Isaac Fox:
And the ingredients that went into it:
Our second-place finisher from the Silver Dollar:
… and Adam describing it to us:
Jacqueline preparing her julep:
… and the finished drink in its tropical glory: