By this time of the summer, mint threatens to overrun my garden. The sprigs that I welcomed when they poked up through the icy soil now crowd my rosemary and parsley. What better way to thin them than to pick them for a recipe?Tired of mojitos and iced tea, I went back to the 19th century for inspiration. Early American Beverages by John Hull Brown (C.E. Tuttle, 1966) gives detailed directions for libations starting in colonial times. This mint cordial comes from the Virginia Housewife (1856 edition) by Mary Randolph, who in the early 19th century ran a boarding house in Richmond. The original calls for a quart of brandy but I cut the quantity in half. The mint infusion worked so effectively that the first sip tasted like mouthwash! The flavor improved after I chilled it. Adjust the quantity of water and sugar to your taste and use up even more mint for the garnish.
Mint Cordial (1856)
Makes about 1 quart
3 handfuls of fresh mint [including stems]
2 cups French brandy [I used cognac]
4-6 cups water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
- Pick the mint early in the morning while the dew is on it, and be careful not to bruise it. Pour some water over it, and drain it. Put a handful into a pitcher with 2 cups of French brandy. Cover it and let it stand until the next day.
- Take the mint carefully out and put in another handful. Take it out the next day. Do this a third time.
- After you have taken out the mint on the third day, add 4-6 cups water to the brandy and 1 cup loaf sugar powdered [I started with 1/2 cup granulated white sugar and thought it was enough]. Mix it well together. When perfectly clear, bottle it. [Chill and garnish each glass with a sprig of mint.]