Walk up to most bars and order a julep, and you’ll find yourself facing a glass of bourbon, muddled mint, and powdered sugar: the classic mint julep. But to the cocktail purist, “julep” doesn’t mean mint. It’s a type of drink, one in which any spirit (not just bourbon) is mixed with any herb or spice (not just mint) and any sweetening element (not just sugar). With that definition in mind, we decided to start riffing. Of course, there’s a reason the mint julep is the most famous version of the drink — it’s a beautifully balanced beverage — so we took it as our starting point.
The first stop was the herb: we swapped out the mint for its cousin, basil, which has some similar notes, but whose aromatic sweetness and clean flavor completely transforms the drink. To emphasize the punched-up herbal element, we turned to Jameson Irish whiskey in lieu of the traditional bourbon. In Jameson we found a subtle citrus note that intermingled beautifully with the basil, and added to the drink’s summery feel. With a splash of simple syrup for sweetness, we poured it over crushed ice to serve — this is a strong drink, and it mellows as the ice melts.