Mint Juleps

It’s Derby time, and like last year, I’m wishing I’d done something about getting a ticket to sit in the stands.  Every year I say to myself, “Next year you will buy a gorgeous dress and a big hat and you will bet money you don’t have and sip on a mint julep in a real mint julep cup like a true Southern Belle.” And each year, I’m sitting at home singing along to My Old Kentucky Home while my mother and I watch the fastest two minutes in sports at our respective houses while talking to each other on the phone.  True story (which actually sounds better in my head).

My bestest girl, R, happened to marry a lovely man from Louisville and, although the wedding took place in her hometown of Pittsburgh, I got schooled in all the best things about Kentucky that  weekend by her soon to be husband and his brothers.  I not only learned–over a drink or 3–to pronounce Louisville correctly (really fast, like Luhl-ville), but that making a mint julep without Maker’s Mark would be like making the run for the roses with a Central Park carriage horse.  Just. Not. Done. 

Maker’s Mark is the bourbon of Kentucky and well, why mess with a good thing?  I also found out that each bottle is hand dipped to get that red wax dripping down, so no two bottles are alike.  Like little whiskey snowflakes… Or something.

One of R’s sisters-in-law stayed at my house once, and as a hostess gift brought me a Derby cookbook, which was just about the best thing I’ve seen.  It’s full of breads and cakes and punches, but the star is the mint julep, of course.  I don’t have real mint julep cups, but I think bourbon, sugar and mint will be tasty in just about anything that’s not plastic.  These are pretty strong (I mixed a batch for a party last year and a few hearty men were felled by two of them), so be gracious and just sip them.  Add a cucumber sandwich and a bit of Derby pie for the perfect trifecta.  Superfecta? Wear a hat.


Mint Juleps

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • crushed ice
  • 100 proof Kentucky bourbon (you know which one!)
  • mint sprigs

In a saucepan, combine sugar and water; bring to a boil. Cover and cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes.  Remover from heat and allow to cool.  In a bowl, bruise mint with the back of a wooden spoon. Place mint in a jar, add sugar syrup, cover and chill in refrigerator for 12-25 hours.  When ready to use, strain mixture and discard mint.  To serve, fill frosted silver mint julep cups or old fashioned glasses with crushed ice.  Add 1 tablespoon syrup and 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) bourbon for each serving.  Stir, garnish with mint sprig and serve with a half sized straw.


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