We need to talk about something very serious: my love for the late, great Rosemary Clooney.
Rosemary is absolutely among the most intense of my lady crushes, and for good reason. She was lovely and charming with an assertive confidence and seemingly effortless talent. The Cloones (yes, I really call her that) possessed the most knee-weakening smile in the business, in my opinion, yet I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is that made her so irresistibly wonderful. To be so cute, so sophisticated, and so compelling takes a special something that can’t be mimicked or taught, and Rosemary had it.
Some probably recognize her only from White Christmas, but she was oh so much more. Rosemary was one of the most successful singers of her time, an A-lister sustaining close friendships with the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Bob Hope, to name a few. She also had a nephew named George; maybe you’ve heard of him. If I’d been born in the era this old soul belongs in, I’d like to think I’d have befriended her, too.
Unfortunately Rosemary died in 2002, almost a decade before I came to understand her glory, so I never had the honor of meeting her. One of the top items on my bucket list is to visit the Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, KY someday. It’s a charming house overlooking the Ohio River where she lived out her final years with her love. It’s been turned into a museum celebrating the life, career, and legacy of the one and only Rosemary Clooney. I’m making it a goal to get to Augusta, KY a year from now, either for her next birthday or mine.
Speaking of birthdays, I’m celebrating hers today, May 23rd, with a cocktail. I’ve made what I call “Clooneshine” on her birthday for several years now, but this year I finally formalized a recipe. This drink is inspired by a mint julep, the well-known cocktail from Rosie’s home state, but I’ve added some twists to tribute my girl. The addition of lemon juice gives a flavor reminiscent of a whiskey sour, and I added in some fresh rosemary, what else? Juleps are usually a pretty dry cocktail; I prefer a bit more sweetness to mine. If you feel the same way, I recommend doubling the powdered sugar to two tablespoons.
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
2 mint leaves (optional)
¼ tsp granulated sugar
2 oz (¼ cup) Kentucky whiskey
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar
In a cocktail shaker, muddle granulated sugar, fresh rosemary, and mint leaves until herbs are very fragrant and have lost their structure.
Fill a shaker mostly full with ice. Add Kentucky whiskey and desired amount of powdered sugar. Secure top on shaker and shake vigorously until very cold, about 10 seconds.
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain contents into a glass of ice. Top with soda water and add a lemon wedge.
With clean hands, clap a sprig of rosemary between your palms once to release aromatic oils. Add to garnish the cocktail.
Squeeze lemon wedge into the julep and serve immediately.
Happy Birthday, Rosemary!
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