Beyond the 12 Bottles: The Root 58 Julep
This post features a drink outside of the regular 12 bottles. If you’re a 12BB purist, feel free to substitute rye in place of the bourbon, but hey, even we break our rules on good occasions.
At the turn of the millennium, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami promoted the term “Superflat” to describe his work. Much like the Western pop movement before him, Murakami noticed a wide gap between “fine” art and “low” art, and he set out to blur the lines between the two worlds. Where Warhol gave us Brillo boxes and Rosenquist leveraged his experience as a commercial sign painter, Murakami produced happy, smiling comic book flowers and hyper-sexualized manga characters and called them high art. The art community agreed.
For most of us, the catalog of mint juleps isn’t much different from the pre-Murakami “unflattened” world: juleps both high — hand-crafted with fine spirits — and low — sickly sweet concoctions of childhood that put many people off proper juleps before they’d even tried the real thing. Still, as a kid, there was always a mint julep on my to-do list each and every time I visited Disneyland. The Disney julep may not be “craft” but it certainly holds a place in my mind as a primal food memory. When Maker’s Mark asked us for a contribution for their #JulepOff competition, we asked ourselves if there was a way to combine that childhood excitement with a drink of true quality, bringing together the high and low into — there’s no better word for it — a superflat julep.
Around 12BB, we’re big fans of tinkering with common household ingredients, attempting to bring out their best and apply them in a craft way. For our Maker’s Julep, we wanted to compliment the qualities of the bourbon while punching up the sweet, minty goodness. That’s the key to a great julep — boozy with just enough sweetness to take off the edge. We played around with various muddles and infused syrups, using the same combination of flavors — mint (obviously) anise, vanilla, orange, cinnamon — until we realized that we could get everything we’re looking for in an off-the-shelf bottle: root beer.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the combination of root beer and a mint julep, but we weren’t interested in using root beer flavored vodka or whiskey (oh, the humanity!) or boiling boar bones in our syrup (yup, that’s been done.) Nope, a good quality bottle of root beer (we used IBC) was all we needed. On its own, the root beer didn’t provide the level of sweetness required, so we combined it with sugar to create an easy 1:1 simple syrup.
In assembling the drink, we looked to heighten and bind the bourbon-root beer mixture by muddling some orange and lemon peel alongside the mint. The final modifier was to bring in the peach note often found in juleps via peach bitters.[ultimate-recipe id=”8421″ template=”default”]
Here then is a julep that’s simultaneously playful and serious. The root beer, peach, and citrus oils add layers that allow the bourbon to shine and a smile to grow at the sides of your mouth. Superflat? Sure but better said: Super delicious. And we think that’s what really hits the (Maker’s) mark. As for the name — “Root” for the root beer and “58” for the year in which Maker’s was founded. Combined, we think they lead the way to a delicious derby day.