Mint Julep Cocktail

By Dave Stolte

The Mint Julep: one that you’ve heard of, but most likely haven’t had properly. Most places make these with a packaged mix or mint syrup – for no good reason. The process is roughly as difficult as making a cup of tea: Steep fresh mint in bourbon whiskey with sugar, then add ice. The hardest part is waiting a few minutes for the flavors to infuse. Preparing this drink properly is a bit of a challenge and takes some skill. But you’re up for it, right? Juleps as a style of drink go back farther than we have reliable records, as far back as 15th-century Europe, where a “julep” was a flavored sugar syrup mixed with medication. In Colonial America, mint juleps were first made with brandy, then whiskey as word got down south.

Recipe

Ingredients

3 oz bourbon whiskey

1/2 oz simple syrup

10 spearmint leaves

1/2 to 1 oz tonic water or sparkling mineral water

Instructions

Muddle lightly and stir to blend.

The key here is lightly – if you bust up the mint leaves, they’ll release bitter chlorophyll. The flavor you want is actually in the little fibers that coat the leaves.

Add an ice cube and let it steep in a cool place for five minutes.

Fill an Old Fashioned glass or Julep cup about two-thirds of the way up with crushed ice.

Gently strain the infused whiskey and sugar over the crushed ice – don’t shake too much.

If you prefer it gentler, top with the mineral water.

Stir to blend and garnish with a mint sprig that’s been lightly slapped against the rim of the glass to release its aromatic oils.

Comments
Dave Stolte 8 Jun 2012
8:41 am

Note the tonic / mineral water / fizz in this is *highly* optional - most people find the drink perfectly balanced as-is, but some prefer to cut the bite of the whiskey a little bit.

chris mcm 9 Jun 2012
3:01 pm

ugh

Dave Stolte 9 Jun 2012
3:37 pm

Details? I know it’s a little bit of an unconventional technique….

Nick L. 21 Jun 2012
4:57 pm

After having tried this with and without tonic, I have to say I prefer the leaving the bubbles out entirely.  Depending on what brand you use, it can add a sharpness to the mint julep that just doesn’t belong.  I feel the crushed ice should be enough to ease the burn of the bourbon.  I’ve never had something complain that a mint julep was “too strong”.  Bulleit, while a fine bourbon, may not be the best to introduce to beginners in this sport.

But, after all, this is a matter of preference.  Would a bartender scoff at a customer who asked for a bit of tonic with their julep?  I would hope not.

Dave Stolte 21 Jun 2012
5:11 pm

Agreed, and thanks for chiming in, Nick. Personally, I don’t care for bubbles in the drink – it softens it too much for my palate and takes away from the interesting relationship between sugar, mint, and whiskey. But: to some, it’s too strong without a little cutting. Always better to be a good host than to force a point on your guests!

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