The Mint Julep is a drink that is synonymous with Bourbon-country, in particular Kentucky, and an estimated 120,000 are sold over the Kentucky Derby weekend alone.
The ‘Julep’ of the name refers to a sweet syrup drink, and is a corruption of the Arabic ‘julab’ for ‘rosewater’. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a julep was any sweet fruity drink, commonly based with rum, brandy or whiskey. Now, the only julep-class drink with a global reputation is the mint julep, but there are some signs of revival in the form of rum and berry-based julep drinks as well.
Today, the Mint Julep is made with fresh spearmint leaves and traditionally served in a pewter or silver julep cup (the metal helps to keep the drink cold).
Two words of caution before the recipe: it is important to discard the stem of the mint, as this will produce a bitter residue when muddled, and ensure that you are only bruising the mint leaves and not pummelling them to a bitter slush at the bottom of your cup.
- Stir 50ml bourbon, 12 fresh mint leaves and a barspoon of sugar syrup in a Julep cup for one minute.
- Add a large scoop of crushed ice and stir quickly to chill.
- Garnish with mint sprigs.
For a mintier alternative, consider infusing your bourbon with peppermint tea, or for an added booze and sugar hit, float half a measure of golden rum on top of the finished drink.