They say the Kentucky Derby is the "most exciting 2 minutes in sports." I've news for you, friends. The Mint Julep is the most exciting reward for 2 minutes worth of work.
I had my first Mint Julep 6 years ago at Churchill Downs. The cool, refreshing drink had instantly become my new favorite adult beverage. The smokey, vanilla, oak-y flavor of the bourbon mixed with the fresh, crisp mint was mind-blowing. And you don't have to like bourbon to enjoy this drink. There are several methods for mixing this cocktail out there, some of which are good, some of which are garbage. I have been making Mint Juleps for years now and this is the most authentic and delicious I have come up with.
In honor of the Kentucky Derby coming up (this year) on May 7, I start mixing up Mint Juleps as soon as the fresh mint hits the markets. Mint Julep is the drink associated with the Kentucky Oaks (racing of 3-year old fillies) and the Kentucky Derby (racing of 3-year old Thoroughbred horses) that takes place each May. In fact, over 120,000 Mint Juleps are sold on those two days alone at Churchill Downs.
Because there are so few ingredients in the Mint Julep, please use high-quality stuff. You absolutely must use fresh mint leaves, preferably Kentucky Colonel Mint. And under no circumstances can you use cheap bourbon. Some examples of great bourbon are: Woodford Reserve, Early Times, Old Forrester, Evan Williams, Maker's Mark, and Knob Creek. I could go on and on but I'll save my bourbon rant for another post.
Makes 2 cocktails
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
12 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
6 oz. bourbon
Mix water and sugar in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Set simple syrup aside to cool.
Place 6 mint leaves in each highball glass. Using a muddler, bruise and mash the mint leaves very well. If you don't have a muddler, you can sprinkle a small amount of granulated sugar on the mint leaves and use the handle of a wooden spoon to mash the leaves.
Pour 1-3 tablespoons of the simple syrup into each glass. I prefer 2 tablespoons myself. Pour 3 ounces bourbon into each glass and stir to combine. Fill glass with ice and garnish with mint leaves.