Courtesy Sean Umstead, owner and bartender, Kingfisher, Durham, NC
Cocktail Inspiration: Oyster Shells
Oyster shells are “full of minerals and brine, just like the seashore,” says Sean Umstead, owner and bartender of Kingfisher, a cocktail bar scheduled to open soon in Durham, North Carolina. The new venture plans to highlight local bounty in both food and drink, and that includes oysters. Umstead uses the top shell to infuse Bourbon for this frosty drink.
Make the Julep with non-infused Bourbon and finish with a pinch of sea salt on top. Alternatively, oyster shell extract or tincture, also known as Mu Li, is sold as an herbal supplement; add just a drop or two.
“One of my most commonly used techniques for coming up with cocktails is envisioning the scene [that] the drink would be ideal to drink in,” says Umstead. In this case, he says it’s a mint julep on the porch of a beach house, “listening to the waves and smelling that sea air.”
The Pearl Julep Cocktail
- 2 ounces oyster shell-infused Bourbon (ingredients and directions below)
- ¼ ounce mint syrup (ingredients and directions below)
- Mint sprig, for garnish
- Oyster shell, for garnish
Add Bourbon and mint syrup to julep cup or rocks glass. Top with crushed ice. Stir 2–3 times to combine flavors and dilute. Top with more crushed ice, and garnish with mint sprig and shell from infusion.
In large pot of water over high heat, bring 6–8 oyster shell halves to rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes, drain, then transfer shells to clean container. Pour 1 cup Four Roses Bourbon over shells, and infuse for at least 6 hours. Makes enough for 4 cocktails.
Mint syrup can be purchased, but you can also make it yourself: Blanch leaves from 10 mint sprigs for 30 seconds, then plunge into ice bath. In small saucepan, combine ¾ cup sugar and ¾ cup water.
Bring to boil, and stir until sugar dissolved. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. When cooled, blend syrup and leaves until syrup turns green. Strain through fine mesh sieve. Yields 1 1/2 cups.