After spending the first 38 years of my life in Kentucky, I know a thing or two about how to make a mint julep. Of course, they are mostly famous because the Kentucky Derby began serving the drink in souvenir cups in 1938. If you’ve ever been to the Kentucky Derby and had their mint julep, you were probably underwhelmed – hard to make 100,000 of them well (the number they serve Friday and Saturday of race weekend ).
However, a well-made mint julep is quite excellent. We Kentuckians like to say that when a mint julep is made right, you can hear angels sing! (especially if you drink enough of them…). To make your own, you’ll want to start with a classic mint julep recipe. And if you really want an authentic one, you need to make your own simple syrup and, even more importantly, you want to use Kentucky bourbon – Maker’s Mark.
— Handful of mint leaves
— 1 oz. simple syrup (2 tablespoons)
— 2 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons)
Put the mint in a julep cup (preferably), or you can use a highball glass. Muddle it by pressing it gently against the sides and bottom of the cup for a few seconds. Don’t over-muddle the mint, or you’ll end up with a bitter drink. Add the simple syrup (see recipe below to make your own – much preferred – store-bought just isn’t that good).
Now fill the cup with crushed ice (only use crushed, not cubes) and add the bourbon. Stir gently for 30 seconds or so. Add a sprig of mint, and you are now ready to drink the perfect Kentucky Derby mint julep!
Now that you know how to make a mint julep, you might want to have a Mint Julep Bar at your next party. Much like the “make your own Bloody Mary bar,” you can provide guests with several other options besides bourbon. Substitute the bourbon with gin, rum, or vodka. You might also want to have a few different options for guests to try, like this vodka julep recipe.
Combine all the ingredients together before stirring in the honey syrup. Pour over crushed ice.
Follow the classic mint julep recipe above and substitute the bourbon with lemonade.
Use a sugar substitute when making your simple syrup recipe (see above). Read the substitute equivalents carefully on the package. Also, make sure you are using a baking sugar substitute, or you’ll get a very bad result.
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