It's Derby Day in Louisville, Kentucky, the day of the Run for the Roses, and with that all drinkers with any self-respect will think of but one thing: an icy cold Mint Julep, one of the true classics of cocktail culture and a drink more associated with a sporting event than any other. In this great article in last Wednesday's Washington Post, drinks columnist Jason Wilson pontificated on the mint julep. It's past, it's muddy present, and just what is the proper way to make it (see below for his preferred version). Perhaps my favorite passage from his column:
"Here are some of my other personal rules for drinking -- and debating -- a mint julep:
· A mint julep is an afternoon drink; never drink one after the sun sets.
· A mint julep is to be enjoyed by itself; never try to complicate it by mixing it with food.
· If you're from the South, no one up North will ever make a mint julep the right way."
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The following is reprinted from the Post:
This variation on Henry Clay's 19th-century recipe is served at the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel. Bartender Jim Hewes recommends using red-stemmed mint and Maker's Mark bourbon.
For richer bourbon flavor, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson recommends trying a higher-proof bourbon such as Wild Turkey 101-proof or Wild Turkey Rare Breed (108 proof). Be sure to use crushed ice, and serve this drink extremely cold, with frost on the glass. One variation: Instead of dusting with confectioners' sugar, add a tiny splash of rum at the end.
You may want to start with a glass that's spent time chilling in the freezer. And don't forget to serve this with a straw for sipping.
8 to 10 mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig, for garnish
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 ounces bourbon
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Chill a (tall) Collins glass in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Combine the mint leaves, sugar, 1 ounce of the bourbon and a splash of sparkling water in the chilled glass. Use a spoon or wooden muddler to gently crush (muddle) the mint into the mixture.
Add a handful of crushed ice and stir vigorously. Add the remaining 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon and a splash of sparkling water. Fill the glass to the brim with ice (tightly packed), then use a bar spoon or knife to agitate the mixture ("with relish" according to Jim Hewes) until frost appears on the outside of the glass. Garnish with the mint sprig and lemon twist, and dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Insert a straw and serve immediately.
Recipe Source: From the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel.
photo from the Washington Post