About a year ago, I began growing mint, and so I had to begin to love drinks that feature mint. There began my love affair with the Mint Julep. It's one of the simplest drinks, like most of the really old cocktails. This one can trace its roots back as far as water with rose petals, a drink from a long time ago in the Arab region called a julab. At least according to the source for one website, cocktailtimes.
In Europe, the drink was made with mint and any available liquor, but it became associated with whiskey, primarily bourbon, when it migrated to the United States. For me, it conjures visions of horse racing in the late 19th Century, but I'm really just projecting. If you want the complete history, check out The Kentucky Mint Julep, which is all about the history of the drink and its association with the Derby.
If you want to make one yourself, get a lot of mint. Don't skimp here. One recipe says "two sprigs of mint," but what does that mean? I put about four or five whole stalks; otherwise, I can't really taste the mint. If you're gonna do it, taste it, right?
Here are the ingredients:
Here's what you do:
- 4 stalks (sprigs) of mint
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 2 1/2 oz whiskey
- sprig of mint for garnish
- powdered sugar
I love the Mint Julep. I love it with Crown Royal, with Jim Beam, with Maker's Mark, or even, my favorite, rye. Get some Old Overholt and try making a Mint Julep and you will fall in love with it, too. The rye is flavorful enough to give it a kick, but it smells and tastes of sweet mint. The combination is amazing.
- Put the mint and syrup in a mixing glass and muddle it. Don't go crazy here trying to destroy the mint, but mash it enough to get all of the mint syrup that's hidden in there.
- Pour in your whiskey and give it a couple stirs.
- Fill your favorite double old fashioned glass or julep glass (silver, of course!) with crushed ice. Make sure it's crushed. If it ain't crushed, it ain't a julep. If you ever get one without crushed ice, send it back, and order a beer. Sheesh.
- Strain the mint, syrup, and whiskey mixture over your crushed ice.
- Sift powdered sugar on top. Put quite a bit of it, at least a teaspoon, or to taste. I have seen some of them that look like a snocone.
- Garnish with the mint.
- Drink and enjoy.
What does it taste like? Well, according to one amazing bartender, quoting an early 20th Century poem about the julep, "Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.”