Particularly among VLO’s friends in the southern latitudes, the mint julep holds a certain primacy of place as the preferred cocktail of choice to help take a bite out of summer’s oppressive heat and humidity. Indeed, fans of the Kentucky Derby cannot fathom enjoying the ponies without this centuries-old American cocktail to help relax the mood.
Like all classic cocktails, however, the mint julep’s recipe is a matter of substantial debate. The traditional ingredients are bourbon, sugar, water and mint. Traditionally served in a pewter or silver cup (with a copper core to freeze the contents), nowadays you’ll get your mint julep in a highball glass, with a mint leaf garnish.
The most basic preparation:
- Put four to six sprigs of mint leaf in the bottom of a glass with a splash of bourbon and granulated sugar to taste. Muddle gently to allow the mint oils to seep into the sugary goop. Allow to stand for a bit.
- Strain into the julep cup, rotating to allow the syrupy concoction to coat the sides of the glass.
- Fill the cup with ice and add the remaining bourbon — usually 3 oz.
- Garnish with a sprig of lightly slapped mint.
Although rare today, in the nineteenth century gin-based juleps were popular. Today, the Kremlin Colonel is a julep that uses vodka instead of bourbon.