When someone says Mint Julep, what do you think? Probably the first thing that pops into your head is the Kentucky Derby and silly hats. Which is understandable. The Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby for almost 100 years. But, I’m here to tell you that this drink should not be reserved for a once a year dress up party where you pretend to care about horses. It should be a staple in your summer enjoyment.
Over the last few winters, I’ve developed a great appreciation for the darker liquors. Whiskeys, Bourbons, and Scotches that I never drank, even five years ago, have become my cold weather drinks of choice. So, now that the sun is out again, must I return to vodka, gin, and tequila?
Well, of course I will, but that doesn’t mean I need to leave the bourbon behind! It just means that bourbon needs a summer look. And here is where the Mint Julep enters. There is nothing complicated about a Mint Julep. Bourbon, sugar water, and mint over ice. It is beautiful in its simplicity. This recipe doesn’t even want you to turn on your stove top to make simple syrup. If you have some simple syrup on hand already, I’m sure it would work well. But, I like that this version simply mixes the water, sugar, and bourbon together with the mint and waits for the sugar to dissolve directly into the bourbon. Simple. Besides that, if you are anything like me, you probably have a ton of mint hanging out in your garden, begging to be used. There is no better use for it than this.
Last week my family was in town and we spent one beautiful early evening sitting in my back yard under my apple tree sipping Mint Juleps. It was a fabulous moment. My mother said that it was the best Julep she’d ever had. My chest bloomed with pride.
The recipe comes from one of those adorable little recipe collections that are basically recipe cards bound together with plastic rings. Recipes collected from friends, local legends, and in this case, the local newspaper.
And while this particular recipe breakdown is for a single Julep, I think it would be silly to make just one. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe as needed.
Arkansas Mint Juleps
Cookbook: A Great Taste of Arkansas- A Recipe Collection– The book was an official project of Arkansas’ 150th celebration of statehood in 1985. Recipe submitted to the collection by The Arkansas Times
- three sprigs fresh mint
- 1 oz bourbon
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp water
- ice, finely crushed
In a glass, mix together two sprigs mint, bourbon, sugar, and water. Stir until sugar dissolves. Fill another cup with crushed ice. Pour mixture over ice and garnish with remaining sprig of mint. If wanted/needed, add more bourbon to taste.
Crushing ice: If you do not have a fancy ice crushing machine or if you do not have a food processor, there are two good options for you.
1. Use a blender. My blender in particular takes forever to crush ice and involves lots of pulsing and mixing around the chunks with a wooden spoon. But, it will get the job done.
2. However, my personal favorite is to get a large Ziplock freezer bag, fill it with ice, lay the bag on my counter, cover it with a kitchen towel, and take my wooden rolling pin and smash the crap out of it. I have to say, it is a great stress reliever and you can get the ice down to just the right size.
You can serve a Mint Julep over cubes of ice, but it isn’t the same. There is something about the way the crushed ice mixes with the cocktail that makes it worth the extra trouble.
Photographs by Jessica Yager.