If you’ve ever done a shot of whiskey while chewing a piece of spearmint gum, then you’ve got an idea of what a mint julep tastes like. It’s basically bourbon mixed with fresh mint and simple syrup (liquefied sugar). So yes, it’s sort of like a mojito, but instead of having rum and being consumed in Miami or Havana, it has bourbon and it is best consumed while fanning oneself with a straw hat on a front porch in the sweltering Southern heat. Or at Churchill Downs, during the Kentucky Derby, where horse racing fans suck down an estimated 100,000-plus mint juleps on Derby Day (that’s tomorrow, in case you hadn’t noticed).
The mint julep is actually a nice cocktail anytime, though, so try it tomorrow, then mix it into your cocktail repertoire and bust it out at a barbecue or a picnic this summer.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
- 32 ounces Kentucky bourbon
- 8 sprigs mint, fresh, for garnish
- Rinse mint prior to chopping. Reserve 8 sprigs for garnishing, roughly chop the rest.
- In a small sauce pan, combine water, sugar, and chopped mint. Bring to a moderate boil and reduce by a third. Allow syrup to cool.
- Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves. This can be made several days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.
- Fill eight frozen, silver julep cups* with shaved ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and approximately 1/4 cup mint syrup depending one’s desired sweetness.
- Cut a straw so it reaches about one inch over the rim of the cup. This allows imbibers to take in the minty aromas. Garnish with a mint sprig. Serve immediately.
*Tall Collins glasses may be substituted for julep cups. If using julep cups, place in freezer two hours prior to serving. Handle the cups by their edges to avoid marring the frosted silver surfaces.