Drink of the Week: Mint Julep

By Paul Nelson

I was helping a group of colleagues host a happy hour at an annual collegial event earlier this week.  They asked me to bartend and left the choice of libations up to me. Remembering the same event two years earlier, I knew that the most popular alcohol of choice by far had been rye and bourbon whiskey, so I decided to limit the menu to drinks with those as the main base. One option that I added to the list is one I’ve made before but have never been terribly impressed with – the mint julep.

Famed for association with the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep is another one of those timeless cocktails that never seems to go out of style. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it more than me!

  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 oz simple syrup (sugar water!)
  • 2 oz bourbon

Most recipes call for you to mix the water and the sugar in the drink, but I think it’s more efficient and a better mix if you have simple syrup on hand and just use that (bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then stir in roughly an equal amount of sugar until dissolved. Let cool and store in the refrigerator).

Muddle (crush) the mint leaves with the simple syrup.  If you have a shaker you can shake them together vigorously with a few ice cubes. The goal is to crush and mash the mint leaves so that they release their essential oils for flavor and scent. Otherwise, you can accomplish the same thing with a mortar & pestle (my preference), or even right in the glass with a spoon. However you do it, make sure it all ends up in a  glass over ice. Add the bourbon and stir.

I expected this to be an ultra-minty sorta drink, but it’s really much more subtle than that. Enjoy!