Bright, fresh, reminiscent of summer, no cocktail calls for bourbon quite like a Mint Julep. Making a mint julep is deceptively simple. Retired Maker’s Mark CEO, Bill Samuels Jr, credits poor juleps to three causes: First, using cheap whiskey that has a “hot” bite; then using too much mint to cover the bite, and finally using too much sugar to cover the mint.
After serving mint juleps to President FDR, Kentucky native Lieutenant Colonel Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. said “A mint julep is not the product of a FORMULA. It is a CEREMONY and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion. It is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician, nor a Yankee. It is a heritage of the old South, an emblem of hospitality and a vehicle in which noble minds can travel together upon the flower-strewn paths of happy and congenial thought."
While I’m not sure I can agree with that much reverence, I do like to whip up this cocktail. Remember, MINT JULEPS ARE NOT JUST FOR DERBY DAY! This is a refreshing cocktail for any occasion.
Many recipes call for using simple syrup. I muddle fresh mint with super fine sugar to achieve a fresher result.
Fresh Mint Leaves
1 tsp. sugar
3 oz. bourbon
Place several mint leaves in a rocks glass or silver mint julep cup.
Muddle with the sugar
Pack the glass with crushed ice
Pour bourbon over ice and stir briskly until the glass is frosted
Add more ice if needed to fill the glass
Garnish with a hefty sprig of mint
With this being the most classic of Kentucky cocktails, I favor using Woodford Reserve. The oldest standing distillery in Kentucky, it was built in 1812 and is a National Historic Landmark. Complex yet smooth, Woodford Reserve bourbon is perfect for juleps. Rich dried fruit notes meld with toffee and caramel. A dusting of cocoa and tobacco finish in a satisfying finish.