Bring on the bourbon!
Bourbon wouldn’t exactly be my first choice of drink, I’m far more of a Gin & Tonic kinda girl. However, I became curiouser and curiouser – like Alice in an adult Wonderland – about the bourbon Mint Julep cocktail whilst watching the Kentucky Derby a couple of weeks ago.
This year was my first experience of the Kentucky Derby, albeit on a TV screen in the bar at happy hour, but this race is HUGE. The horse racing event of the year in America, it is on a par with Royal Ascot, attracting thousands of spectators and a throng of extravagant, high-end, high-fashion (I guess!) hats. But I’m not a hat person – my curly hair really doesn’t make allowances for hat stability and hat hair really isn’t an option! – so instead my attention was drawn to something else, something strange and wildly green that everyone seemed to be drinking – it t’was the Mint Julep.
Originating in the south, the Mint Julep has become the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. It consists of four simple ingredients: bourbon, bourbon, bourbon and bourbon – OK, maybe you could substitute some of the bourbon for mint leaves, sugar and water!
If you are a Mint Julep virgin – as I was until this week – then you don’t know what you’re missing. Not at all what I expected, this cocktail is as light and refreshing, if not more so, than a classic G&T, due to the minty, zingy freshness of the mint leaves.
In fact, this cocktail has really taken the derby by its reins, with some 80,000 juleps served up each year, alongside 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice. There is even a Premium Mint Julep, served in a gold-plated cup and sipped through a silver straw, all for the paultry sum of $1000 – now that’s spending an arm and a leg to get legless!
Ice is extremely important when crafting the perfect cocktail and the Mint Julep is definitely best served “on the rocks”. To create an impressive ice cold Julep I recommend using one giant cube of ice, or even better, an ice sphere – it looks so pretty doesn’t it?! Larger ice cubes not only look more impressive, but they also melt more slowly than smaller chunks of ice, which means that your cocktail doesn’t get diluted by the melting ice – double bonus! You can find the ice moulds I used at the Arugula & Rocket Store.
Watch my video to see how easy it is to make the perfect Mint Julep or continue reading for the full recipe.
If you’re thinking that this post is a little tardy and irrelevant now that the Kentucky Derby is over, then never fear for May 30th (and June 1st) is near! May 30th is National Mint Julep Day in the USA, while we honour the Julep on June 1st in the UK. So raise your glasses – be they gold, silver or simply common glass – to the mighty Mint Julep Cocktail!
- 2½oz Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
- 10 Mint Leaves (plus a Sprig for Garnish)
- 1½ Tsp Superfine Sugar
- Seltzer Water
- Ice (I used the Tovolo Sphere and King Cube Ice Moulds)
Place the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass and top with the sugar.
Muddle together until the leaves begin to break down – this will take a little while so persist.
Add a splash of seltzer water, then the ice, followed by the bourbon.
Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network