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The Kentucky Derby is this weekend and you can’t even think about the Derby without its signature drink–the Mint Julep.
How can four simple ingredients come together to create something so delicious? Mint leaves, bourbon, simple syrup, and crushed ice. Perfection.
And don’t get me started on that silver cup. 🙂
The Mint Julep is a drink of the South and is believed to have originated in the 18th century. It was often used then as a medicinal prescription. I need to find a doctor like that. 🙂
I love some of the descriptions of Mint Juleps in old publications. One describes the necessity of using “hailstones of ice,” or crushed ice. I LOVE crushed ice and won’t own a refrigerator that doesn’t make it for me. 🙂
The Mint Julep became officially associated with the Kentucky Derby in 1938 and it is estimated that well over 100,000 juleps are served over the two-day weekend of the Derby.
In 2006, Churchill Downs (where the Derby is held each year) began serving special Mint Juleps that cost $1000 each! They are served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, and the drink is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, imported Irish mint, ice cubes made from spring water imported from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia.
The proceeds from the sales of these special versions go toward charities that assist retired racehorses. I love that idea.
I also love Mint Juleps. I look forward to the Derby every year as an excuse to make them. I don’t really know why one needs an excuse, as they can be made any time but they just seem like a “first Saturday in May” drink. 🙂
I remember several years ago we went on a wonderful paddleboat cruise on the Mississippi River and one of our stops was at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. The boat docked pretty early in the morning but they were serving Mint Juleps when we arrived at the plantation.
Mint Juleps at 8 am? Sign me up! My dad and I ordered them, they were SUPER strong, and it was a really great way to start the day. 🙂
So how do you make the perfect Mint Julep? Let’s get started.
As I mentioned, you need simple syrup, bourbon, mint, and crushed ice.
You need to make your simple syrup in advance. A simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water. I usually use 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water.
Just place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Be careful to not let the sugar caramelize or burn. That’s not what we’re going for here.
Allow the mixture to cool and it can be stored in a jar or bottle with a lid for up to a month in the refrigerator.
To make the drink, begin by “muddling” some fresh mint in the bottom of a julep cup. Muddling means crushing and bruising the mint a bit to release the oils and flavor. I use the small end of my favorite little tart tamper to muddle the mint.
Then add two tablespoons of the simple syrup.
Fill the cup with crushed ice.
Pour in the bourbon, and stir to combine everything. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
That’s it! You’re good to go!
I know some make their Mint Juleps in a glass or some other such nonsense, 🙂 but I cannot stress enough the importance of using a silver Mint Julep cup.
Aside from the fact that they are GORGEOUS, the metal cups will quickly begin to “sweat,” forming condensation on the outside from the ice inside. It’s just a beautiful presentation.
So what are you waiting for? Mix up a Mint Julep, place your bet on your favorite horse, and enjoy. Cheers!
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