It's basically bourbon on ice, but oh so tasty if done right.
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Okay, so this is the first post on my blog, but truth be told the post has been pre-dated to match the day that I actually made the cocktail and took the photo, which was also the day that I actually had my first Mint Julep. I’ve had to pre-date a few posts leading up to my official live release of this blog, which was Thanksgiving of 2017, the one year anniversary for creating my first original cocktail, The Melon Blast. So think of the posts leading up to that time as dated based on when it happened rather than when it was posted. Blah blah blah no one gives a shit, Dave! More Drinking, less Thinking! Fine, enjoy one of the simplest but sweetest cocktails ever created that has all that southern charm and heady drunkenness that you might expect from the antebellum south.
I’ve always liked the idea of a mint julep ever since I read Hunter Thompson and his exploits at the Kentucky Derby, but had never actually tasted one. Basically it’s bourbon on ice with some mint and sugar for extra flavor, but there’s a whole process involved, and to me that’s what makes a good cocktail. As with all great cocktails, it starts with high quality liquor; bourbon in this case. I have a lot of friends who are bourbon purists (some would call them snobs) who sneer at the thought of adding anything but ice to a good bourbon, and there’s something to that, but if you wanna try something special it’s best to start with something good. I must confess I don’t know my bourbons very well, but I did some research and read about some of the different types of bourbon, and discovered a type called “cask strength” which is essentially bourbon that is taken directly out of the cask, which means that the alcohol strength is higher, but not consistent from cask to cask. The typical booze bottling process involves blending a shitload of casks together and diluting the mixture with water to get a consistent ABV (alcohol-by-volume) strength which provides an easier mass production model. That means a mass produced product for the masses with less alcohol, and who the hell wants to drink that?!? Not me!
So I went on a hunt to find some cask strength bourbon, and lo and behold I found that Maker’s Mark had a tiny batch of cask strength bourbon with individualized labels showing the higher than usual ABV of 56.6 or 103.2 proof available in one of my 5 favorite local liquor stores:
Now when you add lots of shaved or crushed ice to this bourbon, which is essential to a good mint julep, you won’t water down the flavor as much! Duhhh! Of course there are many other better (and stronger) bourbons out there, and I’ve had a few that I liked such as Woodford Reserve (which is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby), Basil Hayden’s and (surprisingly) Four Roses, but you should pick your favorite and remember that the stronger, the better.
The other important factor is the pewter cup. The whole point about it is to let the sides stay frosty and cold, and you can read about that and the other finer etiquette points if you want to, or you can be a hasty Yankee like me and just pour it on the rocks into any old glass and suck it down quick before it warms up. So here’s the recipe:
2-3 oz. bourbon (good and strong!)
4-10 fresh mint leaves (depending on your taste)
1 tsp. cane sugar
1 cup crushed or shaved ice
1 mint sprig for garnish
powdered sugar for garnish
Start with a big thick glass or metal cup, preferably silver plated, pewter or copper (keeps it frosty so ice doesn’t melt) and muddle the mint with sugar and a few drops of bourbon in the bottom of the cup with a wooden spoon or muddler. Fill with ice, add bourbon, stir briskly for a few seconds to integrate the sugar and mint with the bourbon. Garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and mint sprig. Add a straw to make it easier to drink.
Tip: don’t aggressively muddle the mint. It works best if you muddle the sugar first to dilute it, then add mint and muddle gently to bruise leaves without crushing. Do it lightly for a minute to just release oils without turning leaves to a pulp.