Drinks

The South in a Cocktail Glass

With her new book, Alba Huerta, of Houston’s Julep, shows exactly why she’s one of the country’s most inventive mixologists

photo: Julie Soefer

From left: The Stone Fence Sour; mixologist Alba Huerta; the Two Drinks Coming.

Southern drinking just might reach its apex in Houston, Texas—at a bar called Julep, where Alba Huerta mixes, yes, superlative juleps, but also fresh riffs on regional legends and geography, with names like the Cape Fear Cooler, the Eudora, and the Cajun Fig Soda.

Huerta’s cognac-based Antebellum Julep made the cover of our February/March 2014 Great Southern Drinks issue, and we tasked the Monterrey, Mexico-born, Texas-raised bartender with devising the G&G Punch for our April/May 2017 tenth anniversary issue. Now, we’re immersed in her new guide: Julep:Southern Cocktails Refashioned, out this month.

Julep is a collection of sixty-five inventive Southern drinks, such as the sweet-potato-based Amethyst Flip, the Honeysuckle Julep, the benne-seed-lacquered Creole Crusta, and the cool, earthy Sassafras Punch. Huerta divides her recipes into six story-rich sections, including three drawn from specific realms of Southern culture and history: The Rural South, the Saltwater South, and Trading with the Enemy—or, drinks inspired by the Civil War.

“Coming up with those menus helped us define what a Southern regional cocktail menu should look like,” Huerta says. “Our drinks had to have stories, they had to be meaningful, and they had to resemble Southern culture, or drinking, or people. This book followed naturally after that, as a way of presenting those stories.”

“People often ask why I’m preoccupied with Southern cocktails,” she continues. “It’s because the South is where I live—and because, as an immigrant from Mexico, I was so welcomed into the beautiful city that I call my own now. That’s why Southern culture is so meaningful to me.”

Click here to buy the book, and read on for two exclusive recipes: the Two Drinks Coming, a multi-step cocktail that tastes like the best possible version of the classic SoCo and lime, and the Stone Fence Sour, an easier aperitif based on a liquor-and-apple-cider drink that quenched colonial America.


Two Drinks Coming

Homemade SoCo and lime cordial elevate a cherished Southern libation

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients

    • 1 ounce plus ½ ounce House “SoCo” Bourbon, divided (recipe below)

    • 1 ounce Lime Cordial (recipe below)

    • ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, lime shells reserved

    • ½ lime shell, for garnish

  • Lime Cordial

    • 1 cup granulated sugar

    • 1 cup water

    • 5 ounces dried limes

  • House “SoCo” Bourbon

    • 1 liter 100-proof bonded bourbon

    • ½ cup dried cherries

    • ½ cup dried apricots

    • ½ cup dried orange wheels, cut in half before measuring

    • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half

    • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick


Preparation

  1. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour the “SoCo,” cordial, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice cubes. Cover and shake vigorously 20 times. Strain into a rocks glass and place a straw in the glass. To garnish, pour ½ ounce “SoCo” into a juiced lime shell and place it on top, nesting it in the ice to steady it.

  2. For the lime cordial: 

    Combine the sugar, water, and limes in a small saucepan, breaking up the limes slightly as you add them to the pan. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

     

  3. Remove from the heat and strain the hot cordial through a fine-mesh strainer or a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a clean container.

  4. Use immediately or transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

  5. For the House “SoCo” Bourbon: 

    Combine the bourbon, cherries, apricots, orange slices, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or other container. (Reserve the empty bourbon bottle if you’d like to store the “SoCo” bourbon in it.)

  6. Cover and let stand for 12 hours. Remove the cinnamon stick.

     

  7. Re-cover the container and let stand for 12 to 24 hours.

     

  8. Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain the infused bourbon through it into a clean container. Discard the fruit and vanilla bean. Transfer the “SoCo” bourbon to the reserved bottle or another container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool place for up to 1 month. We always use it up in just a few days; beyond 1 month the flavor will begin to fade.

  9. **NOTE: I prefer to use dry ingredients to infuse liquor with other flavors because they have no moisture. This is especially true when it comes to fruit. The liquid in fresh fruit can make an infusion susceptible to quick spoilage. Dried fruit gives you all the flavor you want without any of the water that can shorten the shelf life of the final product. You can find dried orange slices in stores and online. When making this infusion, we remove the cinnamon stick after 12 hours so that the spice doesn’t overwhelm all the other flavors in the mixture.

Recipe excerpted from Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned


Stone Fence Sour

An updated take on the drink that quenched colonial America

Ingredients

    • 1½ ounces 80-proof bourbon

    • 1½ ounces hard cider, preferably Foggy Ridge

    • ½ ounce orgeat

    • ½ ounce simple syrup

    • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

    • ½ ounce freshly squeezed orange juice

    • 3 apple slices, for garnish

    • Fresh nutmeg, for garnish


Preparation

  1. Pour the bourbon, hard cider, orgeat, syrup, lime juice, and orange juice into a glass. Stir with a barspoon to blend. Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice and stir a few times. Fill the glass entirely with crushed ice. Place the straw in the glass. To garnish, thread the apple slices on a cocktail pick and place on the rim of the glass. Add a few grates of nutmeg.

Recipe excerpted from Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned


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