In the first great awakening of our state’s food culture, back in the eighties, notable Texas chefs challenged the culinary orthodoxy of the day, choosing to promote local ingredients and cooking styles. In the current, if modest, shift away from the usual power centers, bartenders have joined the regional revolution, and none so passionately as Houston’s Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta. Longtime champions of homegrown cocktail traditions, they have realized a dream in Julep, the much-anticipated, thoroughly Southern bar now open on Washington Avenue.
There are endless volumes devoted to the cuisine of the South, but the record is comparatively silent on the matter of its cocktail culture (with the noteworthy exception of New Orleans, which has a long and honorable legacy). The post–Civil War Southern economy was in tatters during mixology’s first “golden age,” and then came Prohibition; Mississippi was bone-dry until 1966, and many parts of Texas remain dry or “damp” to this day. But scarcity never has and never will dampen our thirst, a fact Julep celebrates unabashedly.
The juleps at Julep are, not surprisingly, superlative. But juleps are widely available in bars, so I will instead focus on the Cherry Bounce Sour. Cherry bounce, in which cherries are macerated with sugar, spices, and spirits (usually brandy or whiskey), is a historical preservative method, found in sources as varied as Junior League cookbooks and the notes of Martha Washington.
At Julep, cherry bounce is added to 100-proof bourbon, lemon juice, turbinado sugar, and bitters and shaken vigorously with an egg white. It is the perfect combination of sweet-tart cherries, lemony zing, and hearty bourbon, as summer looks toward fall and hints at cooler days to come.
Cherry Bounce Sour
1 1/4 ounce Old Grand-Dad 100-proof bourbon
1 ounce homemade cherry bounce
1/2 ounce turbinado sugar simple syrup
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
a dash Angostura bitters
1 egg white
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake vigorously without ice to start emulsion. Add ice and shake again to chill and thoroughly emulisify. Strain over chunks of ice in a Collins glass and garnish with a spritz of misted Angostura bitters, fresh grated cinnamon, and a bourbon cherry.