Did y’all know that this Saturday is National Mint Julep Day? I don’t need much of a reason to make one, but that seems like a fine occasion to me. That, and the fact that we didn’t really get a Derby weekend this spring. So, let’s get to it and make a classic mint julep today.
Mint juleps are a classic Southern cocktail, often associated with the Kentucky Derby. It originated in the Southern U.S. in the late 1700s, first as a prescription drink. It started being served as a cocktail in the early 1800s, and was first promoted in association with the Derby in 1938. Each year, more than 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs, and thousands more are enjoyed around the country. But let’s not limit this to just the Derby! National Mint Julep Day is a solid occasion, too.
Mint juleps only require three ingredients: bourbon, mint, and sugar (or simple syrup). It’s traditionally served over crushed ice. If you don’t have crushed ice at home or can’t get it at a store, you can easily make your own—though if you’re in an apartment, your neighbors may not like the loud pounding noises coming from your kitchen! I bet Sonic ice would work well, too. Then again, crushing your own ice is great stress relief. But I digress.
A classic mint julep is light, refreshing, and surprisingly easy to make. It looks fancy, but it only takes a few minutes to stir one up. It’s an absolutely perfect spring-summer cocktail, and definitely shouldn’t be reserved for a couple days a year. It’s very spirit-forward, though, so it may not be the right cocktail for a novice bourbon drinker.
A mint julep is made by muddling fresh mint with sugar (or simple syrup), then adding crushed ice and pouring bourbon over the top. When muddling the mint, you must be careful not to crush it too much—just enough to release the oils into the sugar and bourbon, which will then intensify those flavors and create a magical drinking experience.
To make a mint julep, you will need:
You can use a highball glass or old fashioned glass, but julep cups are my preference. Since bourbon is the only liquid in this drink, be sure to pick a good quality bourbon that you know you’ll enjoy drinking. And as always, fresh mint is best! Now that my porch garden is flourishing, I have plenty of mint to make lots of mint juleps all spring and summer long.
If you like this recipe, you might also like my Strawberry Mint Julep. This would also be good with blackberries if you have those!
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Classic Mint Julep
- 2 bar spoons sugar (or 1/2 oz simple syrup)
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves
- 2 oz good bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Mint bouquet for garnish
Add mint leaves and sugar to the julep cup and muddle.
Pack cup with crushed ice.
Pour bourbon into the cup over the ice. Stir very carefully until the cup is frosted on the outside.
Top with more ice as needed, and garnish with a mint bouquet.
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