The mint julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and although I'm about a month late for Derby Day, I think mint juleps are a great drink any time the temperature starts to creep into the 80s or 90s. Here in Philadelphia we've had a couple weeks of scorching hot temperatures, so mint juleps certainly seem appropriate. The mint juleps that I make for Derby Day, and any other time I can get my hands on fresh mint, are loosely based on a recipe from The Bartender's Guide by Peter Bohrmann.
This year my garden has been very friendly and the mint seedlings that I planted in mid-April have grown into immense plants. I can't seem to use the mint-
leaves as fast as they grow back which is great. The particular variety of mint that I grew this year is called, appropriately enough, mint julep. Its flavor is exactly what you want for mint juleps (or mojitos or minty-sweet-tea), and if you can find it at your local garden store and grow it yourself I highly recommend it. Otherwise, more common spearmint varieties work just fine and are widely available. Enough about gardening, here's how I make a perfect mint julep, feel free to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to make more than one.
- 8oz old fashioned glass
- Crushed or shaved ice
- Fresh mint sprigs - 2-3 per drink
- Bourbon - Early Times is the official whiskey used at the Kentucky Derby, but any brand will do. I've found that Jim Beam has just the right flavor for my tastes.
- Simple Syrup - you can make this easily by boiling one cup of sugar in one cup of water until fully dissolved - it will store in the fridge for a long time.
- Gather 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint - straight out of the garden is ideal if you can get it. Rinse and set aside.
- Ice is the key to a refreshing Julep. Fill your glass to the brim with ice, then dump that ice into a blender or food processor and crush it up real good - the closer you can get to snow-cone consistency the better. Getting a good consistency of ice is by far the hardest part of this recipe. Unfortunately I don't have any good tips on ice crushing other than trial and error with your blender.
- Place the mint in the bottom of the glass along with 1.5 oz of bourbon and 2 tsp of simple syrup. Muddle the mixture to release the flavor of the mint leaves.
- Pour the crushed ice back into the glass and top the drink off with cold water.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint and a cherry.