My mint-infused bourbon for juleps was a big hit!
For our trip to the Kentucky Derby, I packed a quart of mint-infused bourbon, a pint of simple syrup and several handfuls of mint plucked from the garden.
The piece de resistancewas my new monogrammed pewter julep cups. The metal cup holds the chill…nor do break if you’ve had one too many. See the monogrammed J? That was my gift to Jake in preparation for our first weekend away since his redeployment.
The mint julep was originally considered a morning drink (so naturally we drank these juleps before noon). It was considered the equivalent of an energy drink in today’s world; a shot or two of iced bourbon garnished with mint, sipped by farmers at dawn.
Like farmers, horse people also rose at dawn, so they started taking a shot of chilly bourbon in the a.m. too. Before long, the drink started showing up at regional horse races and eventually made the leap from morning nip to “sipping” cocktail. In early 18th century Kentucky, silver julep cups were awarded as trophies and it wasn’t long before some tipsy horse person poured their iced bourbon into their trophy and a springtime drinking tradition was born.
To rate the tastiness of my mint-infused bourbon, I made two juleps: One with non-infused bourbon from a good quality brand. The other with my mint-infused version, made from a lesser tier brand. Sure enough, the mint infusion took away any harsh or sharp flavors from the lesser tier bourbon. In fact, the taste was not just indistinguishable from a non infused alternative, it was actually better. In other words, you don’t need to use a pricy bourbon for juleps if you infuse it with mint first.
The quirky thing about most standard julep recipes (I’ve found) is that they’re designed with the original intent in mind — a shot or two of bourbon over ice, garnished with mint. But two shots of bourbon isn’t nearly enough to fill a 12 ounce julep cup — the cup is not even half full after handfuls of crushed ice. So my recipe is scaled to fill at least half the cup.
First, to infuse the bourbon: Several weeks beforehand, add five to seven sprigs of fresh mint to a mason jar.
Top with bourbon — the quality is irrelevant — and secure with a lid. Allow the bourbon to steep in the sunshine from two days to three weeks.
My mint julep recipe:
Add 1 tablespoon simple syrup (recipe here) to a pewter or silver julep cup, top with a small handful of crushed or shaved ice (do not use ice cubes). Add 1/4 cup mint-infused bourbon, and stir. Top with more crushed ice and garnish with a big sprig of mint. Serves 1.
Double the recipe if you want your julep filled to the tip top.