This is about mint juleps. Serious drinkers (as if there are any other kind around Kentucky Derby time) will tell you this is the time of year to choke down one pre-mixed or poorly-prepared julep at Churchill Downs or a party before going back to something more standard.
But is that any way to treat the signature drink of Louisville’s signature event?
We asked Monkey Wrench bartender Jared Schubert to show us how to make three types of julep: one for yourself, one for you and some guests, and something completely different.
Watch this video to see what he came up with:
The Traditional Mint Julep
The traditional preparation of a mint julep can be compared to that of the Japanese tea ceremony. Only when the proper care it given to each part of the whole, is the final beverage truly complete. The drink is less about the ingredients and more abut the process of putting them together. The following method is one I’ve developed over the years and touches on several different techniques of treating the ingredients.
For one drink you will need the following:
2 oz 100-proof bourbon
1 tsp finely ground sugar (not confectioner’s sugar)
9 sprigs of healthy mint
1 metal cup (silver julep preferred)
1 small spoon with long handle
1 thick short straw
2 cups crushed ice
Steps of preparation:
1. Remove the leaves of two mint sprigs, save for step 3
2. Brush the inside of the metal cup with remaining mint, tapping the sides gently. Save mint for garnish
3. Place mint leaves from step one, into bottom of metal cup. Gently pressing them to the bottom
4. Pour bourbon over top leaves
5. Add ground sugar
6. Stir briefly and very gently
7. Fill cup half way with crush ice, stir gently again
8. Fill remainder of cup with crushed ice; make sure to create a mound of ice at the top of the glass.
9. Place bundle of mint into cup
10. Insert straw, and enjoy
The Mint Julep for a Crowd (6:57)
When serving large crowds, or to save yourself from being shackled to the kitchen preparing juleps for your friends all Derby day. I have developed a method that utilizes a newer techniques and a bit of science to produce a julep that taste great but isn’t as time consuming to make.
What you’ll need:
1 bottle of 100-proof bourbon (Liter preferred)
1 cup simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
74 mint sprigs (approximately 7 bunches)
1 5-pound bag of crushed ice
8 oz water (tap water only if you are in Louisville, otherwise use properly filter water, trust me on this one)
1 40 oz+ Pitcher or large serving vessel
This method will serve 16 people per bottle of bourbon, and is referred to in the bar world as a “batch.”
1. Place one unwrapped, separated bundle of mint into bottom of pitcher
2. Pour bourbon over top
3. Allow bourbon and mint mixture to steep together for a least 30 minutes.
4. Remove mint from bourbon, and discard
5. Add water and simple syrup to pitcher and stir
6. To serve pour mixture over crushed ice in a glass
7. Garnish with 3-5 mint sprigs (not the ones you used to flavor the bourbon)
8. Insert straw and enjoy
Julep, the Fun Way (12:26)
Now once you begin to understand how simple and possibly difficult a julep can be. You can begin to play around with flavors. The following is my rendition of a bad julep I had at Churchill Downs. I simply substituted good and flavorful ingredients for the poor choices in the drink that inspired this recipe
1 oz bourbon (less than 100 proof)
.5 oz lemon simple syrup*
3 mint sprigs
3 oz Sparkling Rosé wine
1 Collins glass
1. Press the leaves of two mint sprigs into the bottom of a Collins glass
2. Pour bourbon and simple syrup overtop the mint, stir gently
3. Add ice to Collins glass
4. Top with the sparkling wine
5. Stir gentle again
6. Garnish with remaining mint sprig, insert straw and enjoy
So now you have a few different methods under your belt, and I encourage you to make each one of these, not just on Derby day but also throughout the spring and summer. After all the julep is the cocktail of southern hospitality.