Saturday, May 03, 2008

Derby Day = Julep Joy!

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:
Mint Julep

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.

1 serving

8 to 10 mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig, for garnish
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 ounces bourbon
Sparkling water
Crushed ice
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


Anonymous said...

Would you like to pass one over? I could just do with a pre dinner drink and that one sounds lovely.

DocChuck said...

I loved your post.

My wife and I have had many mint juleps at the Round Robin Bar, as we are big fans of the Derby.

And, as you say, they are some of the best juleps in the glorious South.

However, we are deeply saddened by the death (euthanization) of the filly Eight Belles . . . a definite downside of the glorious Southern tradition of horse racing.

Our grief is magnified in that we knew the owners of the magnificent horse.

But that aside, your post was definitely upbeat. Thank you.

noble pig said...

Oh do I love a good mint julep! And of course yesterday was the perfect day! Thanks foe sharing this recipe.

bb said...

Culinary- It's 12:30 Sunday a.m. here in Portland and I wish I had one in my hand right now!

Docchuck- I have to say I am quite envious that you have been to the source....well done! And very sad news about Eight Belles. It is amazing that a horse can give so much of itself that it has nothing left. Very sad, shocking, and worthy of a toast in her memory!

noble pig- I hope you (and I for that matter) get to have one soon. I think this afternoon is looking very promising!

Anonymous said...

I live here in Louisville and truly enjoy our Derby party every yr! Was so saddened by our filly Eight Belles! She gave those colts a grand race coming in 2nd! Nevertheless, the best Mint Julep is made with the simple syrup infused with mint. Now THAT is the way to enjoy a great mint julep. This recipe is like those made at Churcill and they aren't as good... Thanks for posting about a great tradition here, though!

Kristen said...

I had my first mint julep in Louisville last spring. I have yet to be able to recreate the yumminess at home.

This was such a sad Derby race... such a tragic ending!