With the Kentucky Derby last weekend and Gold Cup keeping the mid-Atlantic states festive, mint juleps are here for the season. The refreshing drink is often served at lawn sporting events such as polo and horse races, and makes for a great summer cocktail at any hour.
The classic recipe is simple: mint, bourbon, and simple syrup. It’s a traditional taste
that works with most anything from snooty cucumber sandwiches to heavier barbecue fair. Traditionally Mint Julep is served at the Kentucky Derby and served in silver or pewter mugs, although it is by no means essential. If you are lucky enough to own such heirlooms, chill the cups thoroughly before mixing your mint juleps.
2 tablespoons mint syrup (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons water
2 ounces good-quality Kentucky bourbon
Crush or muddle a few mint leaves in the bottom of an 8-ounce Mint Julep Cup (using the back of a spoon to crush mint leaves) until mixture forms a paste.
Then fill the Mint Julep Cup 1/2 full with crushed or shaved ice. Add prepared mint syrup, water, and bourbon. Stir until the silver cup is frosted on the outside. NOTE: A glass tumbler will not frost on the outside.
To serve, garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 bunch fresh mint sprigs
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat an pour over a handful of mint leaves and gently crush the mint with a spoon.
Refrigerator syrup mixture overnight in a closed jar. Remove mint leaves and continue to refrigerate. This syrup mixture will keep for several weeks.
Substitution for Mint Syrup: Purchase a bottle of mint syrup (used for flavoring espresso drinks and Italian sodas). NOTE: Mint Syrup is easier to use, but the taste isn’t as great!
But what about when you’re looking for ways to update this centuries-old drink? Try replacing Kentucky bourbon with white whiskey, an unaged whiskey that is clear in color. According to Smooth Ambler Spirits, a West Virginia-based distillery near the Greenbrier Resort, white whiskey is made with ”the same recipe and process as the bourbon we barrel for aging, cut to 100 proof to make it a bit more mixable in your favorite whiskey concoction. Very smooth, but with the early and bold notes of the sweet corn and wheat that after time in white oak barrels become mellow and caramel-tinged.”