Recipe: How to make mint julep drink for the Kentucky Derby

No Kentucky Derby custom is extra ingrained than the mint julep, which is a should for the primary Saturday in May, whether or not you might be at Churchill Downs or internet hosting a watch-party elsewhere.

They are easy to make, with solely 5 substances within the recipe: bourbon, sugar, mint, ice and water. (Six in the event you depend the silver cup, which many contemplate integral.)

But it’s laborious to make a julep style actually good.

“The pageantry of making a mint julep is great,” stated Chris Morris, grasp distiller at Woodford Reserve. “What drink is served in a more appealing way than the mint julep? It has pageantry of the Derby, Kentucky in the spring, sprigs of fresh mint … it’s all show.”

History of the mint julep

The julep is a really outdated drink. The origin of the phrase seems to be the Persian gulab, which implies rosewater, in response to “The Kentucky Mint Julep” by Colonel Joe Nickell.

Originally, the julep was a medicinal drink, which is sensible as a result of distilled rosewater was usually a base for a lot of dwelling treatments from historical instances. Mint additionally has been generally known as a medicinal herb for millennia, significantly used to deal with abdomen illnesses.

Combined with sweetened syrup, used to make bitter or bad-tasting issues palatable, you’ve the early American model of a well being drink, albeit a boozy one.

British traveler and tutor John Davis, in his 1803 narrative “Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America”, defined the julep as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”

But the spirit wasn’t all the time bourbon. Gin juleps have been fairly fashionable, too, in addition to these made with brandy.

The mint within the bourbon-based julep might need served one other objective: disguising dangerous whiskey. Before requirements have been established by President William Howard Taft in December 1909, whiskey was usually “rectified” with every part from burnt sugar and prune juice to creosote and cochineal (sure, the crushed, dried our bodies of bugs).

So you possibly can see why the mint needed to be there.

Morris has a principle about how the drink got here to be synonymous with racing.

“The two things our ancestors brought with them to Kentucky were their stills and their horses,” he stated. “When we have the early get-togethers … what do people come with? Their whiskey and their horses. They are drinking and racing. … Very early on bourbon and horse racing are connected as a social intercourse. The first mention of julep cup being awarded as a racing trophy was in 1816, somewhere in the Lexington area.”

The affiliation with the Kentucky Derby additionally seems up to now from the very starting. According to Nickell, the clubhouse at Churchill Downs served mint juleps — and plenty of different drinks, presumably — on the very first Derby on May 17, 1875. By 1938, it had grow to be synonymous with the Derby, and Churchill made it the signature drink and commenced promoting them in commemorative glasses.

On regular Derby days in May, about 120,000 mint juleps are bought at Churchill Downs over the 2 days of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. But don’t think about armies of bartenders muddling mint and crushing ice: Churchill makes use of 10,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep, a ready-to-serve cocktail, plus 1,000 kilos of recent mint for garnish and 60,000 kilos of ice.

You can generally discover this at your native liquor retailer. But why not make your individual?

How to make mint julep

The keys to creating mint julep drink, in response to trendy bartenders:

Good bourbon. You could make it with bottom-shelf stuff, however you’ll style the distinction.

Fresh mint. Spearmint, not peppermint.

Lots of crushed ice. Nothing is much less interesting than a watery, heat mint julep.

A relaxing glass. If you might be fortunate sufficient to have a silver julep cup, then the ice will frost the surface properly. But any chilled glass can work.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader and Everything you should learn about Kentucky bourbon

“You have to know the way to balance the drink,” Morris stated. “It’s easy to go too minty or too sweet.”

He recommends asking your company how they like their juleps and tailoring them in response to style and the bourbon you might be utilizing. Some are sweeter or mintier than others already.

“Make your mint julep fresh,” he stated. Don’t pre-make them and carry on ice. It simply received’t style pretty much as good, he stated.

Many bartenders suggest making a easy syrup, and a few even steep the mint within the syrup to infuse it with a pleasant mint taste.

Another possibility: use a diluted sorghum syrup as a substitute of sugar syrup. Sorghum has a deeper, richer taste that basically marries properly with bourbon.

If you wish to serve juleps however don’t wish to make them, attempt the bottled model. Morris really helpful that you just wait till you’re able to serve your julep to pour it; even a pre-mixed one tastes higher served icy chilly with recent mint.

And in the event you or your company actually simply don’t need a mint julep, there are many different nice choices.

Try the Kentucky Mule, a cocktail recipe made with mint, bourbon and ginger beer, or one other bourbon cocktail such because the Sunday Sipper, made with lemon juice, bitters and Sweet Tea Syrup from Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., which relies in Lexington and Charleston, S.C.

Julie Mora, bartender at Dudley’s on Short Street in Lexington, demonstrates in methods to make a mint julep. She begins by coating the rim of the silver julep cup with powdered sugar. Mora prefers utilizing easy syrup made with mint leaves for further taste. Pablo Alcala

A Kentucky Mule made with ginger beer and bourbon, generally is a good different to the mint julep. Pablo Alcala


From Taylor Huber of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.

Janet Patton covers eating places, bars, meals and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning enterprise reporter who additionally has coated agriculture, playing, horses and hemp.
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