Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, and with a name like “Dixie Julep,” you can bet this blogger will be mixing up some mint juleps to celebrate.
Just in time to help you plan your own Derby party, I’d like to present two versions of the julep. The first is the classic recipe that’s been made for generations. The second is a surprisingly tasty non-alcoholic version, so that non-drinkers can get in on the Derby Day action.
The Classic Mint Julep
If you’ve never mixed a mint julep, you may surprised at how simple the recipe is. It’s just four ingredients, including the ice, but the trick is all in the preparation.
If you ask a dozen bartenders how they prepare a julep, you’d likely hear a dozen different answers. However, if you’re going for authenticity, I doubt there’s anyone more authentic than YouTube’s classiest bartender, Chris McMillian. Just watching him behind the bar will make you thirst both for a julep and for a simpler time when ice was crushed by a hammer and bartenders recited poetry.
Now that Mr. McMillian has gotten you in the mood for a mint julep, here is the recipe:
One ounce simple syrup (no need to go buy this, you can make your own by melting equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan over low heat)
Two ounces of your favorite bourbon
Four to six fresh mint leaves (and a sprig for garnish, optional)
Freshly crushed ice
Place your mint leaves in the bottom of the glass and gently bruise them with a bar spoon. (No need to vigorously muddle).
Top mint leaves with crushed ice.
Pour in simple syrup.
Pour in bourbon.
Stir gently with the bar spoon, add the garnish if desired and serve.
Tradition dictates that a mint julep be served in a silver julep cup, which conducts heat, keeping the drink extra cold. Julep cups are charming, but I don’t currently own any, so if you’re like me, any rocks glass or high-ball will do.
Drink up and enjoy, but pace yourself. The mint julep is so refreshing that its easy to forget how much of a punch two ounces of bourbon can pack.
Non-Alcoholic Mint Julep
That brings us to our next julep recipe … Purists, you may want to step away from the computer for this one … No, I mean it, your sensibilities might be offended when I tell you that this version contains no bourbon, in fact, no alcohol of any kind.
I discovered this mock julep last year, when I was pregnant and couldn’t enjoy a real mint julep on Derby Day. The recipe originated on a Taste of Texas, but I have made some adjustments in my own version including using simple syrup instead of sugar, reducing the lemon and adjusting the recipe to a more manageable half-pitcher size (or approximately four servings).
Three cups of ginger ale (approximately one and a half cans)
One cup simple syrup
A half cup of lemon juice
Four to six fresh mint leaves per glass
Mix the ginger ale, simple syrup and lemon juice in a large pitcher. If desired, chill briefly in the refrigerator.
Like the normal mint julep, gently bruise the mint leaves in the bottom of your glasses and top with a generous portion of crushed ice.
Pour the mixture from your pitcher over the ice and gently stir. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
Tell me about your favorite julep making tips or Derby Day traditions down in the comments, please! Happy Derby watching, y’all!