This weekend is the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel of the Triple Crown, and “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” And besides women wearing elaborate, oversized hats and the winning horse getting blanketed with red roses, drinking Mint Juleps is one of the most storied Derby traditions. And my personal favorite…
Is there an “official” mint julep recipe? Sure. But there’s always debate over which one it is. And while fine Kentucky bourbon is usually the agreed upon main ingredient, I’ve been sent one recipe that substitutes tequila. (So much for tradition.) So with that in mind, here are three of my favorite juleps for you to mix up this weekend.
One comes from Maker’s Mark, distilled from soft red winter wheat, instead of rye, giving it a smoother flavor for your julep. The recipe is very traditional, and pretty involved… but well worth the effort. Another comes from Wild Turkey 101, with a higher-than-usual proof, perfect for you guys looking for a richer, deeper, fuller taste. And finally, Maestro Dobel offers a fresh twist on the classic, substituting their Diamond tequila in place of bourbon.
No matter which you choose (or if you make all of them), it’ll be a Run for the Roses to remember.
The Perfect Mint Julep
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
1 Liter Maker’s Mark
Lots of fresh spearmint
To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves – wash and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 parts of Maker’s Mark. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Then set aside.
To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of water in a cooking pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
To prepare the Mint Julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of Maker’s Mark into a large pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bowl.
Now, begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste – generally about 3 tablespoons.
When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.
To serve the Mint Julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver Mint Julep cup) half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint, and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.
When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Then serve.
The 56 Julep
2 1/2 oz Wild Turkey 101
3 sprigs of mint (six to eight mature-sized leaves)
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup crushed ice
In a traditional silver julep cup or double-old fashioned glass, muddle two sprigs of mint with the brown sugar and one ounce of Wild Turkey 101 for a few minutes, crushing the mint leaves with a spoon. Add the crushed ice, the remaining bourbon, and garnish with sprig of mint. Enjoy!
Triple Crown Julep
2 oz Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila
8 Fresh mint leaves
1 oz Agave syrup
2 oz Ginger ale
Build cocktail in glass, no need to shake. Start with mint then add the Agave & tequila – stir and top with ginger ale. Serve in a rocks glass with fresh mint leaves throughout the drink. Liquid should be a dark champagne hue.