The mint julep is as old as America. Starting out in Virginia with a rum base, the julep soon migrated to Kentucky where bourbon was king. In 1938, the mint julep became associated with the Kentucky Derby where it is now the official drink.
There are three keys to the mint julep – the bourbon, the mint, and the ice. We give you the recipe for the mint julep we serve at Sidewinder along with instructions for making a mint simple syrup which we find creates a cleaner extraction of the mint than classic muddling does. Finally, we don’t forget the crushed ice. At Sidewinder, we have the advantage of a supply of pure ice, but even at home, you can still create a good quality ice if you crush it yourself. You don’t need a special bag or mallet, but they can be purchased on the web for a reasonable cost.
Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep — the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.
Colonel Joshua Soule Smith
- 2 ounces Kentucky Bourbon like Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, or Bulleit
- ½ – 1 ounce of mint simple syrup (see recipe) or 2 teaspoons sugar with 4 -5 mint sprigs muddled
- 2 cups crushed ice
- Fresh mint sprig for garnish
Add the simple syrup, bourbon, and half the crushed ice to a mint julep cup or tall glass. Stir, then add a splash of soda water and fill the glass with the remaining ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Mint Simple Syrup
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Water
- 1 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves
Mix all ingredients and bring to a simmer while stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook a minute or two longer while stirring. Remove from heat and steep the mixture for half an hour. Strain into a container and store, refrigerated, until used. In addition to the Mint Julep, this is an excellent base for a classic mojito. You can also freeze the syrup.
A few words about ice: the recipe calls for ‘crushed’ ice. Just use a good quality of ice and wrap it up in a kitchen towel or ice bag and gently crush it to the desired size. Enjoy!