Some would say The Julep is perfect, not to be messed with. But what's the world without exploration? For Derby Day in May, we play off the origin of the word "julep," which existed centuries before horse races and wide hats ever turned juleps into a Kentucky birthright.
Here, we harken back to the Persian gul-ab, meaning "rose water" (the English borrowed the word and planted it on "simple syrup" back in the 1400s) by combining turmeric, raw honey, and rose water into a paste that becomes the basis for a superfood simple syrup. A sprig of fresh basil, in place of mint, rounds out the savoriness of this mix -- a combination that works surprisingly well together. You can even muddle a few basil leaves in the bottom of the cup to release the oils and create more complexity.
Why turmeric and bourbon? Turmeric root, a relative of fresh ginger, pairs well with sweetness and woods -- this winter, we drank turmeric hot toddies with bourbon for our sore throats, an experiment that was surprisingly tasty and soothing. Here, we frost a glass and a touch of rose water and dried rose petals, which are mostly for show -- omit them if you like -- unless you are hosting a Derby Day party, in which case, you'll want to go grand.
For drinkers who want a change-up from the annual mint julep -- or for anyone in need of an anti-inflammatory boost, this is an unexpectedly glorious drink. Try serving them throughout the summer with spicy Indian or Thai food.
- 2.5 ounces bourbon (we like Buffalo Trace)
- 1 ounce of turmeric-rose syrup (see below)
- Fresh basil, for garnish
- Dried organic pink rose petals, for garnish (optional)
For turmeric-rose syrup:
- 1 tablespoon light honey, preferably raw
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 drops rose water
- 1 Tablespoon hot water
Combine honey, turmeric, and rose water in a small jar or measuring cup and stir until it forms a paste. Add hot water and stir until the honey dissolves. You'll have about 1 ounce of "syrup." (If you want to batch this, just know that the honey syrup is a 1:1 mixture -- add turmeric and rose water to taste. A little of these spices goes a long way.)
Shake bourbon and syrup with ice and strain it into a chilled julep glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a sprinkle of crushed rose petals.
Tips on Crushed Ice and Glassware
Use the bottom of a small shaker, as we did, if you don't have a proper julep cup. Proper cups are usually silver or pewter. and can be a little spendy for the real deal (a pair makes a lovely wedding or housewarming gift).
To make crushed ice at home, you can use a muddler, a Lewis bag, or a blender. We used a Vitamix. You can read about ice techniques on Bon Appetit.
Check out our superfood post on Turmeric.