“Fresh mint—very important,” says Trish Gavin, placing a julep tin on the bar of Handsome Hog. That’s where we’ll be watching the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, drinking Gavin’s mint juleps before singing “My Old Kentucky Home” at an uncomfortable volume.
If you’re watching the Run For The Roses at home, you might consider a wheated bourbon for your juleps (corn is always the majority grain in bourbon, but these feature wheat, instead of rye, as the secondary grain).
“It’s subjective, but sometimes the spice in those high-ryes can clash with the sweetness of the mint,” Gavin says. “The wheated whiskies are really soft, and make the drink well-balanced.” Maker’s Mark and W.L. Weller are fine choices to that end.
But then again, any bourbon will do the trick. For example, Gavin recently made us a julep using Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (a high-rye), which has a beautiful sweet oak flavor to it, and it was delightful. Here’s your Derby-day technique:
- 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
- 1/2 ounce rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water, boiled, dissolved, and cooled)
- Fresh mint. Lots of it.
- Crushed ice (roughly pebble-sized chunks). Throw some cubes in a Lewis Bag, grab a mallet, and work out your anger issues.
- Start with a good pinch of mint (about 8 leaves) and place in the bottom of a julep tin (you have one of those, right? No? A pint glass will do.)
- Add the simple syrup and press down with a muddler on the leaves to pop the veins, but be careful not to tear the leaves apart. (“Nobody likes leaves in their tea,” Gavin says. “You’re not chopping a salad, here.”)
- Add the bourbon and fill the glass almost all the way with crushed ice. Stir well until the drink is diluted and the glass has a developed a good frost on the outside.
- Finish by topping the glass off with more crushed ice so it’s mounding over the top of the glass. Take a sprig of mint, smack it between your palms to release the oils, and place on one side of the ice mound. (This is important—you want to smell mint as you drink.) Add a straw near the mint and serve.