A traditional mint julep. Photo courtesy
There’s no better way to watch the Kentucky Derby on Saturday than with a mint julep in your hand.
A mint julep is made of spearmint, Bourbon, sugar and water. It’s similar to a Mojito, but substitutes Bourbon for rum. The fresh mint leaves are used very lightly bruised to release more of the aroma and flavor.
Traditionally, mint juleps are served in silver or pewter cups (shown in the photo). However, few of us have the space to keep a collection of julep cups, so any tall glass is fine.
MINT JULEP RECIPE #1 (EASY)
Here’s an easy mint julep recipe:
1. In a julep cup or old-fashioned glass, muddle two sprigs of mint with the brown sugar and one ounce of Bourbon.
2. Add the crushed ice, the remaining Bourbon and garnish with sprig of mint.
But the following recipe, from Bourbon producer Makers Mark, promises to be worth the extra effort:
MINT JULEP RECIPE #2
1. Prepare the mint extract: Remove about 40 small mint leaves, wash and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whiskey. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Then set aside.
2. Prepare the simple syrup: Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
3. Prepare the mint julep mixture: Pour 3 cups of Bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Bourbon.
4. Begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. (Editor’s Note: Or use this trick: Put whole coffee beans in a cup and hold them to your nose. Coffee beans magically “clear the nose” so you can smell again.) The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste—generally about 3 tablespoons total.
5. Refrigerate. When you think the mixture right, pour it into an empty bottle, cap tightly and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to marry the flavors.
6. Fill glass. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.
7. Garnish. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Then serve.
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