I’m sorry to tell you my friends, I just had no time this week to make a mint julep for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. I even got my first pretty julep cup and all, but time just seemed to slip through my fingers- not a bad thing when the busy week has been fun and full of friends. Next year though, I promise. The pretty julep cup will be filled with sweet bourbon, a mountain of cracked ice, and handfuls of fragrant mint. If however, you are looking for a fun drink for derby time, let me introduce you to this lovely cocktail. It has the required spirit of bourbon, and sweet smokiness from cherry Heering infused with Lapsang Souchang. Lapsang Souchong is a tea whose leaves have been smoked-dried over a pinewood fire. I’m typically not one for smoky drinks, I have no affinity for mezcal and things of that nature, but this gently infused liqueur works perfectly for me in this case. Just a faint wisp of smoke. I have loose-leaf lapsang souchong and I estimated 2 grams was close to the equivalent of a teabag. I plan on doubling that next time to concentrate the flavor even more. It may not be a mint julep, but it is a lovely version of an old fashioned and one pretty fantastic derby cocktail.
slightly adapted from: Food + Wine
1 Lapsang Souchang teabag or about 2 grams of loose (a scant 1 tablespoon) for more flavor, use 2 teabags or 4-5 grams
6 ounces Heering Cherry Liqueur
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 brandied cherries skewered on a pick, flaky sea salt, and a lemon twist, for garnish
In a glass combine the tea leaves (or teabag) and cherry Heering and steep for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, either press the extra liquid from the teabag, or use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the tea leaves out of the cherry Heering. Each cocktail only calls for 1/2 ounce, so store the leftover Heering in a glass jar at room temperature for up to 1 month.
Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon, bitters, and 1/2 ounce of the infused Heering; stir well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Dust the skewered cherries with salt. Garnish with the cherries and lemon twist.