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Master the Mint Julep and Find Your Summer Chill

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Nothing cuts through the summer heat like a cold cocktail in a frosty glass. And no other cocktail compares to the mint julep. 

Originating n the Southern US in the eighteenth century, mint juleps used to be prescribed as medicine. And it’s easy to see why. Just spend some time under the hot August sun in North Carolina, and you’ll be longing for a mint julep to cure what ails you. 

If you’ve never had one before, the mint julep is a simple concoction that includes simple syrup, fresh mint, and – most importantly – bourbon. This drink is all about the bourbon, and us Southerners like it that way. Bourbon is our pride and joy, and no cocktail honors it more than the julep.

Mint juleps are also associated with the Kentucky derby, and drinking one just makes you feel festive. Sipping on a julep, you can almost feel a giant, elaborate hat resting on your head. You can almost hear the excitement of the racetrack and feel the whoosh of the crowd as it roars.

Of course, drinking mint juleps can also be purely relaxing. They invite the drinker to sit back, take a moment, and fully immerse themselves in the sweet, whiskey-soaked world of southern hospitality. They feel old-fashioned and timeless, but their sweet, herby bite feels fresh at the same time. 

Maybe you can tell that this is my absolute favorite cocktail. We even served them at our wedding (the bar ran out at 9pm!), and they’re the only reason I have been dedicated to keeping the mint in our front garden alive. 

Because when summer rolls around, I need my mint julep fix. Spend some time in the shade with a book in one hand and a julep in the other, and you’ll see what I mean. 

Mint Julep Tips and Tricks

Before tossing back a few of these delightful cocktails, here are some things you need to know:

 

  • Simple Syrup. Simple syrup is useful to have around, especially if you enjoy iced coffee or cocktails. Make it ahead of time by combining 1 cup of water and 1 ¼ cups of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low boil, and then boil for two minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup cool before using. I store my simple syrup in a plastic squeeze bottle to keep it handy.
  • Crushed Ice. It’s traditional to use crushed ice in a mint julep. If you don’t have an in-door crushed ice dispenser in your refrigerator, you can crush up some ice in a blender. Just make sure not to crush up the ice too much, or you’ll be having more of a mint julep slushie.
  • Silver Julep Cups. At the Kentucky Derby, they serve mint juleps in silver or copper julep cups. At home, you can use a highball glass or even a mason jar. Or, get a few julep cups of your own. They keep the cocktail refreshingly cold and feel extra fancy. 
  • The Bourbon. This is definitely a heavy pour of a cocktail. It does contain more than a full shot of bourbon – and not much else. Make an effort to get the highest-quality bourbon you can. It’ll be worth it when you take that first sip. 

 

 

 

 

Mint Juleps Three Ways

Ready to give the mint julep a try? Read on to see my classic mint julep recipe, and then two fresh takes on this timeless classic.

Classic Mint Julep Recipe

This is my go-to recipe for this refreshing, heat-beating cocktail.

  1. Add 4-5 mint leaves and 2 oz. of simple syrup to the bottom of your serving glass. Use a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint, breaking it up into smaller pieces and mashing it into the simple syrup.
  2. Add crushed ice on top, almost filling the glass. 
  3. Add 2 oz. of bourbon and a splash of water on top of the ice.
  4. Give the mixture a quick stir, top with a fresh mint sprig, and enjoy. 

Blackberry Julep Recipe

Blackberries add a subtle summertime tang that cuts through the boozy sweetness of the classic julep. 

  1. Add 4-5 mint leaves, 3-4 blackberries, and 2 oz. of simple syrup to the bottom of your serving glass. Use a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint and berries with the simple syrup.
  2. Add crushed ice on top, almost filling the glass. 
  3. Add 2 oz. of bourbon and a splash of water on top of the ice.
  4. Give the mixture a quick stir, top with a fresh mint sprig and a cut blackberry, and enjoy. 

Herby Julep Recipe

For those looking for a more adventurous take on the julep.

  1. Make some herb-infused simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water, 1 ¼ cups of sugar, 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 1-2 sprigs of fresh mint, and 1-2 basil leaves. Bring the mixture to a low boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Let the simple syrup cool and remove the fresh herbs before using.
  2. Add some fresh rosemary, 2-3 mint leaves, a small basil leaf, and 2 oz. of the herb-infused simple syrup to the bottom of your serving glass. Use a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to muddle the herbs with the simple syrup.
  3. Add crushed ice on top, almost filling the glass. 
  4. Add 2 oz. of bourbon and a splash of water on top of the ice.
  5. Give the mixture a quick stir, top with a fresh mint sprig, and enjoy. 
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