The Kentucky Derby is only 1 week away (Saturday, May 3, 2014). Time to dust off the big hats, polish those silver cups, and snip those fresh mint leaves because we’re going to cocktail Derby-style. (Yes, that’s right, I just turned cocktail into a verb).
Nothing says start of summer, or Southern Summer to be more exact, than the Mint Julep. (Note: If you’re more in a mocktail mood, I’ve created a nice refreshing Mint Julia to refresh your soul–recipe post coming soon. )
The Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. According to Cocktail Times , its roots in the US date back to the 1700’s when colonial farmers would drink this strong beverage first thing in the morning to get their day going, just as we drink our morning coffee today. The ingredients are simple: water, sugar (as simple syrup) and whiskey. Choice of whiskey variety may vary, but the use of the silver cup always remains constant. (The silver cups help keep the drink cool during the hot, summer days.)
I learned how to make authentic Mint Juleps from my old friend Elizabeth Hubbell (who also happens to blog over at MountainsAndMagnolias). She helped me appreciate the ritual of the mint julep, the deep historical tradition, and the beautiful refreshing flavor that can only come from something served in perfectly chilled, glistening silver cups.
Unlike a horse race, making a Mint Julep cocktail must be slow and steady. You can’t just throw it together like a quick NYC Cosmo, you’ve got to take your time. First you slowly simmer the simple syrup. Then you must gently muddle the mint leaves. You don’t want to use to much force or muddle too quickly. You have to go at a temperate speed so as to ensure the peak amount of mint oil extraction. Then you pour in the Bourbon and stir. You don’t shake and get things riled up. That’s for the race or the party itself. The cocktail is calm and contained–The Yin to the wild Kentucky Derby’s Yang.
There are two basic ways to make a Mint Julep. The first method is to use a simple syrup and the second method is to muddle the sugar directly in the cup or glass. (If you don’t have silver cups, you can use an old-fashioned or high ball glass.)
Mint Julep Method 1-Simple Syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- 2 oz of whiskey or Bourbon
- Silver Julep cups
Make a minty simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Next, cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, create your Mint Julep. Fill the silver cup with crushed ice, add one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of whiskey or bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Mint Julep Method 2-Muddled sugar
- 3 oz whiskey or Bourbon
- 4 to 6 sprigs mint leaves
- 1 tsp super fine sugar, to taste
Put mint, sugar, and a small amount of bourbon into the bottom of a mixing glass. Gently muddle the mint and sugar. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to allow the muddled leaves to release their flavor. Strain and slowly pour into a julep cup or glass, rotating to coat the sides. Fill with ice, then add the rest of the bourbon or whiskey. Garnish with mint.
Are you planning on watching the Kentucky Derby? Will you be wearing your favorite hat and drinking Mint Juleps?
Until next time, Toasting You and Yours!
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