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Saturday, May 7, 2011

I’m sure by now you know that Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby yesterday.  And I’m nearly as sure that if you had any interest in race at all that you had a mint julep while you watched it, wearing your best party hat, of course.  Gwen and I also settled in to watch the race, and yes, she did have a party hat on.  We also had mint juleps, but not your traditional julep.

Juleps were originally developed as medicinal “tonics” to cure whatever might be ailing you during the 15th century.  A mixture of herbs, sugar and water, eventually alcoholic ingredients such as brandy or Cognac were introduced.  Over time mint became the herb used in juleps and then in the late 1800’s Kentucky bourbon become the choice of liquor to use.  Thus, the modern mint julep was born. 

As with most classic cocktails, there are certain standards and controversy about how to make a proper mint julep.  If you really want to be proper you will use a silver julep cup.  Using a julep cup allows the outside surface to become frosted over from the ice in the cup and adds a touch of elegance.  However, if you don’t have a julep cup (I don’t) you can use any tall cocktail glass.  I used a collins glass for mine on Saturday. 

The second point of contention in the making of a mint julep is just where and how the mint is used.  Some will simply garnish the julep with a large bunch of mint leaves extending from the top of the glass.  This presentation gives you a nice scent of mint with each sip of the julep.  Others will muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass before adding the ice and bourbon.  And what do I do?  Why, both of course! 

I do enjoy a good julep, especially on Derby day.  However, this year I decided to make a variation of the mint julep to provide a bit more flavor.  Here’s my recipe for a Peachy Mint Julep.

  Peachy Mint Julep

  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 1 bar spoon powdered sugar
  • 1/4 oz Stirrings Peach Liqueur
  • 4 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon

In the bottom of a collins glass gently muddle the mint with the sugar and peach liqueur.  Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the bourbon.  Stir to mix and chill using a bar spoon.  Garnish with a sprig of mint leaves extending above the rim of the glass and serve with a straw.

The Stirrings Peach Liquer adds just a hint of peach flavor and sweetness to complement the mint and the charcoal, smokey notes of the Maker’s Mark.  This is particularly a good way to get your non-bourbon drinking friends to try a julep since it is a bit mellower than a traditional julep.

Cheers!

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