I'm working on a home spa party book. It's been a project near and dear to my heart for years. I thought it was finished and decided to change how I did the food part. Because of this, I had to experiment with some dishes so I could offer complete meal ideas. My biggest problem is drinks. I'm really a water or tea drinker. I've never liked punches and I'm really picky about juices. As a kid at class parties I would beg the teacher to let me just drink water. I never have liked those punch drinks parents bring to kid's parties. Sunny Delight was like poison to me. I hated it. As an adult, I still can't stand most drinks. I'm very basic - water, tea, cocoa, and coffee. I can make great presentations and variations of those (except I have developed a sensitivity to coffee). The idea of creating punches just makes me crazy.
Well, when writing a menu for a party it's important to offer drink ideas. Not so easy for me. I make a lot of Southern/Cajun/Creole dishes and thought a party centered around these foods would be fantastic but then I had to find at least one drink idea. Mint Juleps are the stereotypical dinner party drink for the South. I've never had nor made a Mint Julep so I did a search.
Then I hit another problem. I do grow mint but mint's not available in January, not here in my Washington home. I came up with an idea that resulted in the most amazing drink I have ever had in my life. I don't know if Mint Juleps are always this tasty but I found me a keeper. Starting with a syrup made with Spearmint Essential Oil (make sure you use a food grade variety or I bet you could substitute with an all-natural mint extract like Watkins sells).
We tried the syrup in a variety of alcohols. For whiskey, I used Jack Daniels. That was awesome. We tried some tequila and that wasn't a great blend. Then we tried Irish Cream which made a nice drink but I preferred the whiskey. We wanted to try rum only to find we were out. I put all the stuff in the freezer before dinner so it would be nice and cold when it came time to mix the drinks. Alcohol can be stored in the freezer but the syrup should be stored in the fridge.
Winter Mint Julep
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
20 drops spearmint essential oil (in summer use 6-8 mint sprigs, let sit overnight)
Combine water and sugar. Bring to boil and let reduce slightly. Add mint. Will be overpowering.
Add ½ oz syrup to 1 oz whiskey. Best served ice cold.