Dust off your obnoxious, fabulously gigantic hats, ladies. The Kentucky Derby is this weekend! That means one thing for me…mint juleps! I have to admit, I love huge hats, and will probably be donning one, but my priority will be this:
Oh, there’s just nothing like it! There’s much debate among julep enthusiasts regarding the proper way to concoct one. I found a method that’s simple and it works for me.
First, get yourself some fresh mint. We grow a bunch in our backyard for this reason only.
I grabbed a few hand fulls, stripped the leaves, then rinsed them well. We’re going to make a mint simple syrup. Combine one part water to one part granulated sugar in a pot (1 cup of each works well).
Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, just until the sugar dissolves. Then toss in your mint leaves.
Use a potato masher or a muddler or the back of a big spoon to gently bruise the leaves against the bottom of the pot. You don’t want to break them down, just bruise them enough to release the oil and flavor.
Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes, then strain it into a container. (Can you see us in the reflection of the pot below? Frank had to help me get a shot of this step. Thanks, babe!)
Now, keep the syrup in the fridge for a few hours so it cools down. One of the keys to a great mint julep is making sure the ingredients are really cold. As a fatter of fact, go ahead and put your bourbon or whisky in the fridge or freezer at this point.
Once everything is nice and frosty, gather your ingredients. It’s quite simple from here.
Bourbon or whiskey, mint for garnish, your mint simple syrup, and crushed ice. I crush the ice in a plastic bag with a meat tenderizer. Of course you can use any glass your heart desires, but we happen to have one lonely mint julep cup. They’re made of pewter and are designed so you can hold the cup at the top or bottom rim, keeping the heat of your hand away from the cold drink.
Fill your cup with ice, then pour in your desired amount of bourbon. Top it off with the simple syrup, stir it up, and garnish with the mint sprig. (You’ll have to play around with the proportions to find the perfect mix for you. Traditionally these are very strong drinks, with maybe 4-5 parts bourbon to one part syrup. When we’ve served these to guests, some have found them too sweet or too strong. Adding a splash of soda water helps mellow things out.)
It’s traditional to use a straw, cut about an inch above the top of your glass. When you drink from the straw, you get a whiff of that fresh mint, right below your nose.
If the liquid is cold enough, a frost will form on the outside of the pewter cup.
True confession? I like to keep the syrup in the fridge this time of year. It’s super easy to mix one of these up on a warm evening. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think! Cheers!
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