Okay, so this is the first post on my blog, but truth be told it’s been pre-dated to match the day that I took the photo, and the day that I actually had my first Mint Julep. I’ve done that with most of the posts leading up to my official promotion and live release of this blog, which was Thanksgiving of 2017. So think of all the posts leading up to that time as dated based on when it happened rather than when it was posted. That being said, enjoy one of the simplest but sweetest cocktails ever created that has all that southern charm and heady drunkenness that you might expect from the antebellum south.
I’ve always liked the idea of a mint julep ever since I read Hunter Thompson and his exploits at the Kentucky Derby, but had never actually tasted one. Basically it’s bourbon on ice with some mint and sugar for extra flavor, but there’s a whole process involved, and to me that’s what makes a good cocktail. As with all great cocktails, it starts with high quality liquor; bourbon in this case. I have a lot of friends who are bourbon purists (some would call them snobs) who sneer at the thought of adding anything but ice to a good bourbon, and there’s something to that, but if you wanna try something special it’s best to start with something good. I most confess I don’t know my bourbons very well, but I did some research and read about some of the different types of bourbon, and discovered a type called “cask strength” which is essentially bourbon that is taken directly out of the cask, which means that the alcohol strength is higher, but not consistent from cask to cask. The typical booze bottling process involves blending a shitload of casks together and diluting the mixture with water to get a consistent alcohol-by-volume (abv) strength which provides an easier mass production model. That means a mass produced product for the masses with less alcohol, and who the hell wants to drink that?!? Not me!
So I went on a hunt to find some cask strength bourbon, and lo and behold I found that Maker’s Mark had a tiny batch of cask strength bourbon with individualized labels showing the higher than usual ABV of 56.6 or 103.2 proof available in one of my 5 favorite local liquor stores:
Now when you add lots of shaved or crushed ice to this bourbon, which is essential to a good mint julep, you won’t water down the flavor! Duhhh! Of course there are many other better (and stronger) bourbons out there, and I’ve had a few that I liked such as Woodford Reserve (which is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby), Basil Hayden’s and (surprisingly) Four Roses, but you should pick your favorite and remember that the stronger, the better.
The other important factor is the pewter cup. The whole point about it is to let the sides stay frosty and cold, and you can read about that and the other finer etiquette points if you want to, or you can be a hasty Yankee and just pour it into any old glass and suck it down quick before it warms up. So here’s the recipe:
2-3 oz. bourbon (good and strong!)
4-10 fresh mint leaves (depending on your taste)
1 tsp. powdered sugar
1 cup crushed or shaved ice
1 mint sprig for garnish
Start with a big thick glass or metal cup, preferably silver plated, pewter or copper (keeps it frosty so ice doesn’t melt) and muddle the mint with sugar and a few drops of bourbon in the bottom of the cup with a wooden spoon or muddler. Fill with ice, add bourbon, stir briskly and garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and mint sprig.
Tip: don’t aggressively muddle the mint. Do it lightly for a minute to just release oils without turning leaves to a pulp.