Hey y’all! It’s officially Derby Week! Pretty ponies, voluminous hats and, most importantly…Mint Juleps! The race isn’t until Saturday, so that gives you a little time to construct your award-winning topper, brush up on this year’s stats and perfect your Mint Julep recipe, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Ooooor, you can just rely on this zingy version that’s guaranteed to have the Yankees and Southerners in your life coming back for more!
Truth be told, I haven’t always been a fan of the Mint Julep, a cocktail traditionally made with bourbon, powdered sugar (or simple syrup) and mint. It’s too often syrupy sweet and with those limited ingredients, it doesn’t have a lot of depth of flavor. For the last couple of years I’ve been keen on making my juleps with rye whiskey, specifically with the excellent 100 Proof, Bottled-in-Bond straight Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey. It makes for a slightly spicier, less sweet julep. And last year, because Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby fell on the same day, I abandoned the margarita and instead made a mint infused syrup with jalapenos for some Mint Juleps with a kick. But, this year, it’s all about ginger!
And because I was veering a little from the traditional recipe, I decided a classic Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was in order. David from my local boutique wine and booze store, TB Ackerson’s kindly steered me in the direction of Old Ezra 101, an overproof whiskey that he noted would hold up to the sweetness in a Mint Julep. And, at around $20 a bottle, Old Ezra 101 is at a perfect price point for a cocktail that you’ll be doctoring up with loads of mint and sugar.
1. Make the Ginger Mint Syrup:
Ginger Mint Syrup – makes about 1.5 cups
1.5 cups of freshly packed mint leaves, chopped
1 cup of peeled ginger, sliced into discs
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
In a large stockpot, bring the ginger, water and sugar to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add mint. Cover the pot and let everything steep and cool to room temperature. When the syrup has completely cooled, strain the syrup, pressing the ginger and mint to release as much liquid as possible. After straining, set aside a portion of the solids to muddle at the bottom of the julep cups. Store the syrup in the fridge until you are ready to use. Should keep for about 3 weeks.
2. Marry the syrup with the bourbon:
Ginger Mint Julep Mix – Makes about 10-12 drinks
1 750 mL bottle of whiskey
1 cup Ginger Mint Syrup (You can use less or more depending on taste from the batch you made)
Combine together and refrigerate for 24 hours to marry flavors.
3. For the finished drink you’ll need:
- Ginger Mint Julep Mix
- Mint & ginger solids leftover from the syrup for muddling
- Bunches of mint leaves for garnish
- Club Soda
- Crushed ice (If you don’t have access to crushed ice, you can use these Cubette Mini Ice Cube Trays that I’m infatuated with. They create the teensiest little cubes (cubettes!) that work well for this drink.)
- Silver Julep Cups!
- Straws – When using a straw, make sure that it is cut to just an inch above the glass so your face gets a head on collision with the gobs of mint in the glass when sipping your julep!
Preparation: Add a TBSP of the ginger & mint solids to the bottom of a julep cup and lightly muddle. Add a splash of club soda. Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and stir. Fill the rest of the cup with heaps of ice. When the outside of the julep cup is nice and frosty, pour the Ginger Mint Julep Mix over ice. Generously add sprigs of mint leaves for garnish.
Foxy Friends, I would be doing you all a disservice if I had a post about the Kentucky Derby and Mint Juleps without sharing with you my latest barware obsession: These AMAZE pony stirrers from Provisions by Food52.
How perfect would these be stuck in your Ginger Mint Juleps at your next Kentucky Derby party?? I’ll answer that – SO PERFECT! Rush order those ponies, whip up that Ginger Mint Julep Mix, and get ready for the most exciting two minutes in sports!