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Time for a Drink: The Prescription Julep

[Photograph: Paul Clarke]

Okay, so maybe this drink isn't really medicine of the FDA-approved variety; I still believe in the Prescription Julep's curative properties, and dose myself with it liberally each summer to keep an assortment of seasonal malaises at bay.

According to David Wondrich, who wrote about this drink in Imbibe!, the Prescription Julep first appeared in print in 1857, and this is, he attests, the tastiest mint julep recipe in circulation: an opinion I heartily endorse. As I've mentioned before, bourbon gets all the press when it comes to mint juleps, but our ancestors weren't that picky; brandy was likely the original spirit in a mint julep, and in the julep's 19th-century heyday it wasn't unusual to see cognac, rye whiskey or rum appearing in this soothing refresher.

In lieu of bourbon, the Prescription Julep deploys a combination of two spirits that are absolutely made for each other: rye whiskey and cognac. As Wondrich notes, the plushness of brandy smoothes out the rye's spicy edges, and the spark of the rye perks up the brandy. Simply add mint, sugar and a plenty of ice, and the result is a relatively simple drink that's uncommonly tasty.

(And with the Fourth of July coming up, should you prefer to stick to American booze in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here's a suggestion: for cognac, substitute the luscious brandy from Germain-Robin, made in California. It's gorgeous stuff, and works great in this drink.)

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