Sunday, May 1, 2016
Happy Hour - Mint Julep
The Kentucky Derby is coming up next weekend. I don't follow horse racing, I just learned this from general chatter on the internet. Two years ago, we drove down to Nashville via Kentucky and happened to be in Lexington on the weekend of the Rolex Kentucky horse racing event. We just managed to find a hotel room - the town was packed! We had a fabulous time and returned the following year for Matt's birthday. On the way home from Nashville, we'd planned to stop in Louisville, Kentucky for lunch but we stopped at a visitor's centre on the highway and learned it was now Derby weekend and we should avoid the area at all costs! So much for my thorough planning.
Kentucky is where we fell in love with bourbon. Since we just bought a new house, we're not travelling this spring, so I thought I'd take a trip back to Kentucky through cocktails!
A Mint Julep sounds fancy and almost delicate, but it's actually just bourbon, simple syrup and mint over crushed ice - almost pure booze! I went all out and bought special, metal Mint Julep cups that keep the drink ice cold on a hot day and make it very refreshing. As the crushed ice melts the drink becomes less bracing and more refreshing.
As with many Southern specialties, some people have very strong opinions about a proper mint julep. I found this article very helpful in breaking down the dos and don'ts of juleps. First I made a rich simple syrup from turbinado (raw) sugar and fresh mint.
Place a cup of sugar, a bunch of mint (16 sprigs or so) and a cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Simmer 5 minutes and then let cool. Strain the mint from the syrup and cool. You'll have a beautiful mint syrup that's great in cocktails and even dessert!
To make two mint juleps, here's what you need:
6 mint leaves, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
1 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces bourbon
4 cups crushed ice
This cocktail is assembled in layers, not shaken. First place 3 mint leaves in each mint julep cup or old fashioned glass. Top with 1/3 cup crushed ice, then 1/2 oz mint syrup per cup. Add another 1/3 cup ice, then 1 oz bourbon. Stir to combine. Add 1/3 cup ice and 1/2 oz bourbon, then top with a final cup of ice, mounded on top of the cup and a sprig of mint.
Serve with straws to stir and sip as the ice melts. This slushy cocktail is so delicious in warm weather and the perfect thing to celebrate Derby day!