Drink | February 2014
I meet Antonio Padilla on the Friday after Christmas to discuss Valentine’s cocktails. He’s worked for four years at Julep in Jackson, Miss. He slides a bright pink drink across the table for me to try. I inquire about its name, and he tells me it’s called “The Sweetheart.” Bingo. Despite the well-worn trappings and arguably trite reputation of Valentine’s Day, lovers will always enjoy dinner and drinks, regardless of the commercial interests of Hallmark. The concept of sharing a meal with significant others has managed to survive the seasons with or without designated days, and the tradition of dining out for Valentine’s Day, in spite of skeptics, is still undeniably a popular activity with all ages. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, taking a loved one—be they significant other, close friend, or even family member—out to dinner on the Day of Love should always include a cocktail at the very least.
The Sweetheart is predictably on the fruity side, and something I can imagine any one of my girl friends ordering out at the bar, while their male companions eye it with suspicion. Bits of fresh, red strawberry are muddled in the drink along with ice chips, and I take another sip. It’s refreshing; a drink that eschews loyalty to any one particular season. “It’s kind of a customer favorite,” Padilla explains. “And it gets ordered pretty regularly.” However, it isn’t on the menu at this time — it’s more of a drink you ask for, which feels downright glamorous. “Julep is very laid back. We’re not fine dining, but we’re not casual Applebee’s, either. We rank ourselves right in the middle. It’s a place where people can get a little louder without being ashamed and our crowd varies from night to night.” His words ring true: Julep has class. It’s a swanky spot located in Highland Village — a shopping Mecca for Northeast Jackson residents—and there’s a definite variety of people who visit. The easiness of the place — the light conversations established instantly with the customers — is part of Julep’s charm. The style of dress varies by age that one might call business casual. There is a table of businessmen to my left, and further in the back, a group of young women sipping Bloody Marys over tinkling laughter.
“We have a young college crowd on the weekends; we have live bands, then. And on the weekdays, we have the older regulars who just enjoy coming to have a few cocktails where everyone can speak and enjoy each other.” When asked about Padilla’s own background in bartending, he explains, “I walked into my first bartending job. I was 21, a bouncer, and the bartender decided to quit that night. They decided to pull me on there. That was about 10 years ago.” He’s self-taught, too, besides attending “show-tending” school to learn to flip and throw flip. “We [Julep] love a variety of cocktails. There’s four standard bartenders. Three of us have been bartending for over six years. And we each have our own style.”
The Sweetheart is a light drink; something to pair with an entree. It’s sip-worthy and fortunately far less candied than most fruit drinks. It tastes natural and the strawberry flavor is accompanied nicely by the vodka and juice. Although it is definitely classified as a lady’s drink, don’t worry, men, you can try a sip, too.
Ounce and a half of Vodka (Stoli)
Ounce and a half of Godiva’s Light
Ounce of Godiva’s Peach
Ounce of Orange Juice
Ounce of Strawberry Puree
1.Pour respective half ounces and ounces into a glass
2. Pour shaven ice; add strawberry bits and mix together
3.Add the fruit, top it off with the sugar
4.Push it down with a little simple syrup
*Served as a martini or on the rocks
By M.B. Sellers