So part two of my Southern “shpeal” involves a very important event on a certain day in May. The first weekend in May. Ringing a bell?? If you said Mother’s Day, I’m proud of you! But that’s not the event I’m talking about here. I’ll give you a hint. All of this hype and revelry is over a brief 2 minutes of excitement. You got it! The Kentucky Derby.
Growing up, I danced my whole life and every May, on that first weekend, I’d get all dressed and ready to go. Bun on head, red lipstick applied, then we’d wait…those 2 minutes would pass…and then off we went to the dance recital! I didn’t get it back then, but now that I’m older? BOY is it fun! So last Thursday, when I walked out of work into 75 degree weather (in February!) all I could think about for some reason was the bundle of fresh mint in my fridge and the unopened bottle of Basil Hayden’s in my pantry.
The Mint Julep is a funny drink. People “claim” famous recipes, strive to perfect it and even dress it up in “fancified” versions of itself. It’s a very Southern cocktail, dripping in tradition, and can be a little intimidating to a first timer! But all in all, it’s a simple drink that doesn’t want to be any fussier than it needs to be. Three ingredients, make sure your ice is crushed and you’ve got yourself a little piece of heaven.
As tradition has it, a mint julep should be served in a silver or pewter julep cup. (Yes, it even has a glass named after it, ladies and gentlemen). Our little piece of heaven was served in a Mason jar. Maybe it’s a nod to my Franklin County heritage, or maybe it’s because I haven’t gotten my hands on any real julep cups…you be the judge. But I think they looked pretty darn cute, if you ask me! And they tasted juuuusssst perfect while we sipped them by the pool. 🙂
The Mint Julep
via word of mouth from my Daddy, Peyton Green
Make your Mint Simple Syrup ahead of time: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and about 1/2 cup of fresh mint in a saucepan. Boil; stirring until sugar dissolves in water. Turn heat down and let simmer for about 2 more minutes, undisturbed. Strain mixture through a fine sieve/colander to remove mint leaves and any solids. Keep covered in fridge up to three weeks.
In your cup, muddle a few leaves of fresh mint until fragrant. Fill cup with crushed ice (to the very top!). Pour 1-1.5 oz of bourbon over ice. Top with simple syrup. Top with more crushed ice if necessary at this point, as the bourbon and simple syrup have probably melted it down a bit. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.
This is a “sippin’ drink”, as my mom always says – not to be enjoyed too quickly, or all at once. As your julep sits, the ice will melt and dilute the mixture a bit, making it better and better as you sip. You can use any type of bourbon you’d prefer. I’ve made a couple of these the past few days – one round with Maker’s 46, which I like enough to drink straight, and one round with Basil Hayden’s. I’d recommend using something with a little less sweetness. The Maker’s is great on its own but blended a little too well with the simple syrup. The Basil Hayden stood out enough to give you that good bourbon flavor even as it started to melt. For those with a little bit bigger liquor budget, the padre usually prefers Blanton’s.