Whiskey Jim's Perfect Mint Julep

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.

You'll Need:
  • 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.
  • Water
  1. Gather 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint - straight out of the garden is ideal if you can get it. Rinse and set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the crushed ice back into the glass and top the drink off with cold water.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a cherry.
*For a twist, try using fresh basil instead of mint, or substitute club soda for water for a fizzy julep.