The Infused Mint Julep
Whenever someone asks me what the quintessential warm weather cocktail is I only have one answer - The Mint Julep. Why? Because it is refreshing, cold, and contains a fair amount of high proof bourbon. This classic bourbon cocktail is often associated with the horse racing, most notably the Kentucky Derby. While being served at Churchill Downs since 1938 is likely the reason for its popularity this cocktails true origin is a remedy for stomach ailments. References to the "Mint Julep" can be found in literature dating as far back as 1784.
The Mint Julep is comprised of four components that everyone will agree on - bourbon, ice, sugar, and mint. That however is the point where everyone stops agreeing and begins to tell you which way of making a Mint Julep is best. I am not going to tell you that my recipe is the best but I will say it is damn good and perfect if you plan to make more than one.
The traditional Mint julep calls for crushed or shaved ice, bourbon, powdered sugar, and mint. The mint is typically muddled in the bottom of the cup before adding the sugar, ice, and bourbon. If you are like me you tend to like a lot of mint character, over muddle, and end up sucking on mint leaf particulate towards the end of the cocktail. I decided to simply things by killing two birds with one stone. The simple syrup blends better than the powdered sugar and infusing mint into simple syrup removes the majority of the vegetable matter from the cocktail. What you end up with is a bit of advanced prep and very easily made, delicious Mint Juleps.
- 1/2 cup of loosely packed fresh mint leaves with extra for garnish. Protip - Grow your own for an endless supply.
- 3/4 cup table sugar (Can be beat sugar or cane sugar)
- 3/4 cup filtered H20
- 2 oz of your favorite high proof bourbon (100 proof or higher).
- Crushed ice
- Measuring Cup (oz.)
- 1.0/0.5 oz jigger
- 1 qt. sauce pan
- Metal julep cup (The use of this type of cup is critical and all will be revealed further down).
- Food processor or blender (necessary if you don't have crushed ice readily available).
- 1 pint mason jar with lid and band.
- Straw (optional and not pictured)
Mint Infused Simple Syrup
- Combine 3/4 cup of filtered H20 and 3/4 cup of sugar in saucepan and heat on MEDIUM.
- Stir mixture occasionally until all of the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove saucepan from the heat source and add 1/2 cup of mint leaves.
- Allow to the mint to steep for 1 hour while cooling.
- Remove mint leaves with a slotted spoon or strain through a mesh colander.
- Decant into the 1 pint mason jar. The mixture should now be cool enough to seal the jar.
- Store in fridge for up to 1 month.
***You can scale this recipe up or down as needed. After some evaporation this will yield just under 1.5 cups of simple syrup.
Putting It All Together
- Fill your julep cup (or vessel of choice) 3/4 of the way with crushed ice.
- Add 2 oz of bourbon.
- Add 0.5 oz of mint infused simple syrup.
- Stir to combine.
- Top with more crushed ice until the volume is slightly above the lip of the cup.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Why is crushed ice and metal julep cups so critical to this cocktail? I'm glad you asked. Something magical happens when you mix high proof bourbon with ice and dump it into a metal vessel. Rather than condensation forming on the outside you will in fact get frost. Mint juleps when made properly will literally frost over on the exterior of the cup.
Alcohol lowers the freezing point of water beyond 32 F. Metal is a great conductor while its glass counterpart is a great insulator. Mint julep cups have a good deal of surface area. Crushed ice has greater contact with this surface area then ice cubes would have. Put all of these things together and you will get the characteristic frost on the outside of your Mint Julep. While you can still make this cocktail in a rocks glass with ice cubes, it just isn't the same. Check out this article from Robert L. Wolke for more info on the mechanics behind this reaction.
A true Mint Julep cip is made out of sterling silver, not stainless steel, nickel, or anything else. My choice of copper is purely aesthetic. It looks good and has the same affect on conducting energy as the popular silver cups. The guys over at the Bourbon Pursuit Podcast recently had an interview with Chris Morris from Brown Forman where they discussed the Julep Cup and its role at the Kentucky Derby. Very interesting. Also very important - if you are going to use copper in food prep or serving make sure it has a protective coating. You don't want to become sterile. Or maybe you do. I won't tell you how to live your life but still wanted to get that warning out there.
There you have it - my recipe for The Infused Mint Julep. I know I harped on about the crushed ice and metal cups but I really think those two things go far with this cocktail. Also, don't skimp on the bourbon. Considering that this drink is mostly ice you want a high proof, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that can stand up to some dilution. I prefer Old Grand Dad 114 because it's cheap, tasty, and clocks in at 114 proof! Hope you enjoy drinking this one as much as I enjoyed making it. Cheers.
- Mark Millonzi @ Entry Proof