Written by: Wayne Rock
Here we are in the first week of May, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of…the Kentucky Derby. And Mint Juleps! In this case, the young man is Wayne Rock, a transplanted Southerner who now makes his home here in Vermont as an Orvis Retail Analyst. Wayne is an fantastic cook, and one of his current explorations is the world of smoking. He has everyone here in the Home Office chomping at the bit to try this amazing spin on the classic Mint Julep. To celebrate the Kentucky Derby we just had to share the backstory as well as the recipe. In Wayne’s own words:
At a small bar in southwestern Virginia, a bartender got my attention when I noticed a small puff of smoke waft over the bar. I meandered my way over to her and saw that she was collecting smoke from hickory chips into a glass. She dropped a perfect 2” cube of ice into the glass, added some simple syrup, orange peel, some Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon, and a maraschino cherry. Naturally I asked, “Can I get one of those?” and before I knew it, the drink was in front of me. It was the best old fashioned I’ve ever had. But the smoke flavor did not last as long as I had hoped and I’m a bigger fan of the mint juleps than the old fashioned. Little did that bartender know, she had sparked a fire in my culinary imagination to create a smoke-infused mint julep.
Being the good ol’ Southern boy that I am, I enjoy some relaxing weekend days with my cast-iron smoker in full operation. I enjoy it even more now that I live in New England, and the smell of wood smoke reminds me of good times down below the Mason-Dixon Line. One Saturday, I happened to remember the drink that the bartender had made me, and I placed a pan of water in the smoker box to give the marinated chicken some company. After two hours, I removed the pan of water and allowed it to cool. Once the water got to room temperature and the pan was safe to handle with bare hands, I poured the water into ice cube trays and placed them in the freezer. Once the ice was completely frozen, I dropped a few cubes in a sandwich bag and pulverized them with a rubber hammer. I dumped the crushed pieces into a highball glass, drizzled some maple syrup on the ice (instead of simple syrup), and (generously) poured some Eagle Rare bourbon on top. I almost forgot the mint! Luckily, I had some on hand so I could make my lady mojitos. I rolled the mint leaves in my fingers to release the menthol, but careful enough so that I didn’t release too much tannin from the leaf and stem that could make my drink bitter. I gave the drink a few swift stirs and let it relax a few moments before raising it to my lips. As soon as the beverage coated my tongue, I knew I had created my new favorite drink. The best part was that the drink kept getting better as the smoke-infused ice slowly seeped more smoke flavor into my glass.
– 9” x 13” Pan
– Ice Cube Trays
– Rubber Hammer
– Cutting board
– Oven Mitts
– Sandwich bag
– Maple Syrup
– Cherry Wood
- Get your smoker going enough so that the whole smoker box is filled with smoke from the cherry wood. It doesn’t need to be hot, just smoky.
- Fill the 9” x 13” pan 2/3 to 3/4 full with water and place it in the smoker. It will stay in the smoker for two hours.
- Remove the pan from the smoker with oven mitts and place on a pot holder to cool until you can comfortably handle it by hand.
- Pour the smoke-infused water into the ice cube trays, place the trays in the freezer, and wait until the cubes are completely frozen.
- Place the ice cubes in the sandwich bags, pulverize with the rubber hammer, and place the ice chunks to a high ball glass or a copper cup.
- Drizzle the ice with maple syrup, pour in bourbon and stir in lightly crushed mint leaves.
On behalf of everyone at Orvis, enjoy responsibly. Happy Kentucky Derby!
And they’re off!
Wayne Rock is a Retail Allocation Analyst at Orvis.