The Kentucky Derby is the perfect sporting event. It’s only about three minutes long, is full of drama and excitement, features some of the most magnificent creatures on this planet, and it has its own signature cocktail: The Mint Julep. Derby Day is one of the best holidays. If you are a sports fan, you should love it. If you’re not, you should still love it.
In my family, Bourbon is one of the few things we can all agree on. It’s pretty much that, Disney World, and watching competition shows on Food Network. Basically everything else manages to cause some level of conflict.
But Bourbon, we have got that down. While we don’t always order it the exact same way (Mom is a Lynchburg Lemonade type, one sister likes a Bourbon Ginger Ale, and I’m most likely to order mine neat), we can all agree that a few mint leaves muddled with sugar does nothing but improve the perfect liquor into the perfect cocktail.
So here’s how I make them: with fresh picked mint, sugar, ice, and enough Maker’s Mark (one of my home bar essentials) to fill the glass. I like to buy a mint plant from the grocery store or farm market. I’ll inevitably kill it, because I have a black thumb. But while it’s alive, there’s no fresher or tastier mint.
For the ice, traditionally a mint julep is served over crushed ice. If you want to break down your cubes (or if you have a fancy fridge that gives you crushed ice) feel free to go that way. I prefer the cubes, which keep the drink cool without watering it down too much.
To muddle the mint and sugar together, I prefer a true muddler. I keep one as part of my home bar. However, if you don’t have one on hand, you can use the back of a thick wooden spoon. When muddling, rub the mixture along the sides of the glass to get more of that yummy mint oil in your drink.
Let’s Make a Mint Julep
Derby Mint Julep
- 4-5 Mint Leaves
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 3 Oz Bourbon (I like Maker's Mark)
- Ice cracked or crushed
- Add the mint leaves to the bottom of a pre-chilled glass or traditional silver julep cup.
- Add the sugar, and lightly muddle along with the mint. Be sure to brush the sides of the glass with the mint as well.
- Add ice to the top of the glass, pour the Bourbon over it, and stir. Feel free to add more Bourbon as necessary, or a splash of water if you prefer it less strong.
- Serve with a straw and garnish with a mint sprig.