Essential Louisville recipes: Volare’s Mediterranean Mint Julep

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Isaac Fox, bar manager, said, “I was working on a julep variation earlier in the year and began playing around with honey-based syrups. I remembered having seen a pomegranate-honey syrup used in a julep before, and the Mediterranean flavors of mint, pomegranate and honey made sense for an Italian restaurant. I wanted to keep the drink fresh, so I added lemon for a subtle kick of acid. The use of bitters added another layer of complexity, but I still thought a spice element would take it to the next level. After several experiments, I decided on galangal, which is one of my favorite spices. While galangal is not Mediterranean (it is actually Thai), its flavor paired perfectly with the other elements. I could easily imagine these ingredients being used in a Mediterranean dish, perhaps lamb with a pomegranate-honey glaze, served with galangal-spiced couscous and fresh mint.”

Mediterreanean Mint Julep Recipe 

2 ounces Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (or other high-proof bourbon)

1 ounce spiced pomegranate-honey syrup (recipe below)

1 to 2 dashes fresh lemon juice

3 dashes bitter blend (equal-parts mixture of orange bitters and lemongrass bitters; if lemongrass bitters are unavailable, use orange bitters and Peychaud’s)

6 to 8 mint leaves

3 to 4 sprigs of mint for garnish

Fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish, if available

In a shaker tin, muddle mint leaves, lemon juice, bitters and syrup. Add bourbon. Dry shake (no ice) to incorporate. Strain into a rocks glass or julep cup filled with crushed ice to remove bits of mint. Garnish with mint sprigs and pomegranate seeds. Serve with a straw.

Spiced pomegranate-honey syrup

In a small saucepan, combine one cup honey (preferably clover or another soft, floral honey), ¼ cup pomegranate molasses and ½ cup hot water. Add one teaspoon powdered galangal root. (Galangal is a relative of gingerroot and is available from Penzeys Spices in St. Matthews. The syrup will taste fine without the galangal; fresh ginger makes a pleasant substitution.) Simmer for about five minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and let chill. Bottle and store in refrigerator for up to one week. If syrup is too thick, add more water. The balance between pomegranate molasses and honey can be adjusted to taste, but be aware that pomegranate molasses is very concentrated and flavorful.

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