Drinking in Style: How to Make the Perfect Mint Julep
The Kentucky Derby is the king of all genteel parties (and ranks fairly high on the not-so-proper list, as well – just ask anyone spending the first Saturday in May in the infamous infield). And as all PorchDrinkers well know, no party is complete without libations. The Kentucky Derby is evocative of many iconic institutions: lavish hats, faster-than-light Thoroughbreds and, of course, the Mint Julep. After all, no Kentucky party is complete without a bit of Bourbon.
The Mint Julep first arrived on the scene somewhere in the late 18th century in nowhere more genteel than the Southern United States. The Mint Julep was originally drunk as a breakfast cocktail, and in many ways, still is as Derby partying begins early. And as any Kentuckian worth his or her salt knows, our very own Senator Henry Clay is credited with introducing the cocktail to Washington, DC at the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. If you ever find yourself in DC, it is a rite of passage to enjoy this fine drink at the Round Robin, where it graces the menu as the bar’s signature cocktail and is dubbed the “Henry Clay Mint Julep.” And rightfully so.
(Read: Kentucky Derby Beer Cocktail)
Though the Mint Julep graces the lips of the rich and famous every year on Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs, the cocktail rests its popularity on the combination of classic yet simple flavors. A real Julep contains only four ingredients: Bourbon (pick your poison, I prefer to mix with Maker’s Mark), fresh mint, sugar and water. I have no doubt that mixologists across the country, especially at the Round Robin, will lobby that their way of the Julep is supreme. But this Kentucky native has her own way of doing things.
How to Make the Perfect Mint Julep
You will require all of the aforementioned four ingredients, but ensure you have an excessive amount of fresh mint sprigs: this is key to a proper Julep. First, I prepare a mint-infused simple syrup, in lieu of muddling sugar or using plain simple syrup.
- Using equal parts sugar and water, blend the two together in a pot on the stove at low-medium heat until the sugar is entirely melted and the consistency is a bit thicker than water.
- Once melted, add sprigs of mint (I put in quite a bit) and allow the sugar-water to really soak up all of those mint oils.
- If I have time, I will prepare my simple syrup the night before and allow the mint to steep overnight.
- Fill the glass with crushed ice.
- Pour 2 parts Bourbon and 2 tablespoons mint syrup over the ice, then stir together.
- Some prefer to add a bit of water to cut the mixture, but as the ice melts it will temper the taste of the cocktail.
Don a bow tie or a big hat, sit back, take a sip and watch those ponies run in true Kentucky fashion.