The key to a good mint julep? The answer is two-fold: decent bourbon and fresh mint. Make this classic accompaniment to the Kentucky Derby any time you find yourself in possession of supremely fresh mint leaves and a desire to kick back and slowly, ever-so-slowly, sip a cocktail. I recommend good company and a sunny sky as the best companions to this mild-sounding but punch-packing drink.
If you happen to have some Mint Simple Syrup around, that can make quick work of this cocktail. If you do use it, however, be sure to garnish the drink with a few fresh mint leaves to give it that fresh-mint kick (plus, fresh mint just makes it look so darn pretty).
- About 20 mint leaves, plus more for garnish if you like
- 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons simple syrup (or mint simple syrup)
- 2 to 3 ounces bourbon
- Cup of crushed ice (or more if needed)
- Put the mint leaves and the sugar (or the simple syrup or mint simple syrup) in a Mint Julep cup*, old-fashioned glass, or similar on-the-rocks drink-containing vessel.
- Muddle the mint leaves and the sugar until the sugar dissolves. This will take a minute or two and a bit of effort. Do not be discouraged - the sugar and mint will come together in a lovely, fragrant mash, a mash that will mix effortlessly with the forthcoming bourbon.
- Add the bourbon and give everything a quick stir. Fill the glass with plenty of crushed ice and stir again until an icy frost develops on the outside of the glass (this will be more obvious and apparent on a metal cup than on a glass one, see below).
- Garnish the cocktail with additional mint leaves (or even an entire sprig), if you're so inclined. But in any case, serve it immediately.
* Mint julep connoisseurs will tell you that this drink needs a tall stainless steel mint julep cup to be the real deal. It's true. They do taste just that much better when properly contained. Let it be known, however, that I have a small kitchen without much storage space, and so I suffer and drink my mint juleps from a glass (as pictured). It's sad, I know, but if you find yourself with a yen for a mint-y bourbon concoction and without the requisite glasses, know that you can make do. You can even get the classic frosty exterior going on the glass if you use crushed ice to really chill things down quickly. This hard-hitting cocktail will smooth away the rough edges of using the improper glassware soon enough.