This past Christmas, my family played a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit. By far, my best category is Entertainment. Even better still is the Pop Culture Edition. I am practically flawless in the pursuit of pop culture trivia. But the one (or biggest) stumbling block I always have in ANY Trivial Pursuit tournament is the Sports category. It’s my Achilles heel. Except that every now and then I luck out with a question about some infamous sports celebrity like OJ Simpson. And sometimes, when you go for a piece of the pie, you get a question that you don’t hesitate on. You don’t doubt yourself. You just know. And amazingly, during this holiday event, it was a sports question. But like I said before, I lucked out with a question that had nothing to actually do with sports. The question? What is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby? Without skipping a beat, without breaking a sweat, without blinking, without spilling my drink, I jumped out of my seat and exclaimed at the top of my lungs “The Mint Julep!” And then I got my wedge. But why so much love for the Mint Julep?
Picture it. Connecticut, in the 1980s, on a Saturday night. Much like Ross Gellar, I too, stayed home to watch “The Golden Girls.” And then when it found another life on Lifetime, I was so pleased. But now, without cable, I’m at a loss. And I ache for the girls. Whatever, I’ll make myself a Mint Julep and get over it. Back to the point. Blanche Devereaux. The southern belle from Georgia. I remember in one episode, Blanche talked about sitting out on the veranda, regaling about the old South and sipping Mint Juleps. Doesn’t that sound nice? Doesn’t it sound relaxing? Doesn’t it sound all…southern? Ms. Devereaux first opened my eyes to these wonderful drinks. And such a simple cocktail it is. Mint, bourbon, syrup & ice. That’s it. That’s all you need to make an exhilarating (and powerful) cocktail.
You would think that the three years I spent in Savannah, Georgia I would’ve tried a Mint Julep at least once. To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t. But it was also my college years and if I’m honest, there were a few nights where I drank a lot (A LOT) and would just start drinking everyone else’s drinks once mine were depleted. Mostly we drank Woo-Woo‘s out on our porch. But that’s probably going to be another post for another time. Right now, we are going to get drunk on spearmint and bourbon. Because it’s the southern thing to do. And also the American thing, too.
I do remember, nearly two years ago, on my first trip to New Orleans, Lance & I stopped at Oak Alley Plantation. It’s a beautifully stunning location. It was also hot and humid. And right outside the plantation house, you could get yourself a Mint Julep. And in the heat of the Louisiana Sun, that was a mighty delicious concoction. I would’ve been happy to sit out on that veranda all day sipping Mint Juleps.
So every now and then, I’ll see some ridiculously bright green mint in the store and think about how wonderful a Mint Julep would be. So last year, for my parent’s 40th anniversary, when we were home, we made Mint Juleps for everyone. So of course, for my Mom’s birthday this year, we decided that Mint Juleps would be a great drink to have (and at this point are probably going to be a tradition going forward.)
And guess what? The Kentucky Derby is coming up. So now you have time to go out and perfect the recipe making process so you can wear some big ass hat and get trashed to watch horses run for 2 minutes whilst drinking their official cocktail. Or just make one because it tastes amazing. And you want a way to freshen your breath and get a little tipsy at the same time.
So if you’ve read this post intoxicated, then I’m not going to worry about you. However, if you’ve been reading this sober, then you probably remember hearing me say it’s just a few ingredients. And that’s true. But, of course, why just stop there at the very basics of it when you can, as the Barefoot Contessa would say “Turn up the volume!” So this recipe reflects that.
Traditionally, a Mint Julep is made with crushed ice and it’s served in a Julep cup. (I was doing some reading on this, and you’re supposed to hold it by the base, this way your hand doesn’t warm up your drink and since it’s silver, it keeps your drink really cold.) You can crush ice in a blender or in a freezer bag covered in towels with a rolling pin or you can just use “ginormous” cubes like normal people. And in my opinion, the Julep cups I’ve come across are too expensive and too small. In the end, it really just matters how it tastes. I’ve always found it hard to have the drink last long enough that I worry about it getting warm.
If you find that the drink is too sweet, either increase the amount of bourbon (my recommendation) or just decrease the amount of simple syrup.