The beginning of May means not only has spring arrived, but warmer weather is here to stay. And it also means that the Kentucky Derby is just around the corner.
The Derby is the opening race of the Triple Crown series, and an event with a drink all of its own: the Mint Julep.
The Mint Julep is made with 3 to 5 ounces of bourbon, 1 ounce mint-infused simple syrup (or simply some sugar), fresh mint leaves, and a generous amount of shaved or pulverized ice. According to Wall Street Journal cocktail columnist Eric Felton the proper Julep is made in the following way:
“Muddle 1⁄2 oz of syrup with mint leaves in bottom of a Julep cup. Rub entire inside of cup with the syrupy leaves. Pack the cup to over the rim with ice. Pour the other half ounce of syrup over the ice, followed by the bourbon. Garnish with a leafy sprig of mint. Drink – slowly, that’s a lot of bourbon – through a straw.”
An alternative way of making the Julep was described by legendary singer Bob Dylan during his Theme Time Radio Hour show:
“First up, you take four mint sprigs, two and a half ounces of bourbon. I’d put three. A table spoon of powder sugar, and a table spoon of water. You put the mint leaves, powder sugar, and water in a Collins glass. You fill the glass with shaved, or crushed ice, and then add bourbon. Top that off with more ice. And…I’d like to garnish that with a mint sprig. Serve it with a straw. Two or three of those, and anything sounds good.”
No matter how you make this delightful beverage, with all its mint and sugar it might not seem like a perfect match for a cigar, but it really is. With a plentiful amount of bourbon, the Julep is a great change of pace from the traditional bourbon – straight up or on the rocks.
If you order a Julep at a bar, it is likely made with Jim Beam or some other rail bourbon. Early Times is the official bourbon (technically it’s a Kentucky whiskey) of the Kentucky Derby – and Woodford Reserve can also be found at Churchill Downs – but I would suggest springing for something better like Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel for your first julep or two. After a few juleps it won't really matter!
For the perfect Mint Julep experience, one should be at the horse track with a sawbuck on your horse to win. There’s nothing better than returning to the betting window with a Julep in one hand and a cigar in your mouth to collect you winnings.