Monday, May 9, 2011

Mint Julep

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I admit, I enjoy watching the Kentucky Derby. I just hate the 2 hours of fluff pieces that leads up to it. Last year I attempted to make mint juleps. I don’t know which recipe I used, I just remember it involved a simple syrup and tasted horrible. I couldn’t even drink it. So this year I studied up. I’ve actually been to Churchill Downs and was lucky enough to have one their delicious mint juleps. We went with a guy who owned a horse, so he was able to explain the “strategy” of betting to us. I followed his advice and won $8; I was pretty happy with that. Anyway, back to the juleps, I found three different recipes to try. I made and tried them all (not all at once) and I’m here to give my verdict.

First, let’s talk about bourbon. Since Churchill Downs is in Kentucky, a Derby mint julep obviously needs a Kentucky Bourbon. Mr. Surly brought home Knob Creek, before we discovered that Woodford Reserved is the type of bourbon used at Churchill Downs. Ooops. Regardless, I continued on with my experiment.

I didn’t know what a “julep” cup is, nor how many ounces are in it. First, I tried pint glasses--too big. Then, I moved down to 12 oz glasses, still too large. Finally I used my stemless wine glasses (not sure how many oz) but they worked out great.

version 1
1 tsp powdered sugar
2-3 mint leaves
crushed ice
2 oz bourbon, plus more for muddling

Add powdered sugar and mint leaves to cup, along with a splash of bourbon. Muddle with muddler, or spoon, til mint is crushed. (This step could also be done with a mortar and pestle). Fill cup ~2/3 full of crushed ice. Pour in 2 oz bourbon. Stir (by mixing up and down, not swirling). I don’t have a glass stirrer, so I used a chopstick. Serve garnished with mint, if desired.

I do not own a drink muddler nor a mortar and pestle. So I used the bottom of a wooden spoon to crush the mint. It wasn't fun.

When I went to add the bourbon I accidently added 3 oz instead of two. Big mistake, unless you like drinking bourbon straight up. So I made a second one, with 2 oz bourbon, and it was pretty good. But, I was still keeping my mind open; I had two more versions to try.

I decided I better buy either a mortar and pestle or a drink muddler, so I could “muddle” better. I went to my mecca, Target, to purchase one. Lucky for me the oxo drink muddler was on sale—score.

Now I was ready for version 2, which is almost identical to version 1, except it uses granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar. This one was just ok; the powdered sugar version was definitely better, even with the use of a real muddler.

Version 3 I saved for last because it involved a bit more work. But it was by far and away the clear winner. My mint julep was perfect, the sweet simple syrup perfectly complimented by the bourbon. Hooray, I finally found a great mint julep recipe. Mr. Surly agreed. Once he tasted the first one he was eager for one of his own. So below is the winner, my go-to mint julep recipe. Just remember to plan in advance so the simple syrup can steep to absorb maximum mint flavor.

Mint Julep
Printer-friendly recipe
makes about 4 cocktails

½ c sugar
½ c water
6 sprigs of mint (stems and leaves)
bourbon (preferably Woodford Reserve)

Add sugar and water to small sauce pan, don’t stir. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, never stirring.

Put mint sprigs in glass or other type of heat safe bowl. After boiling 5 minutes pour syrup over the mint leaves. Using a muddle or back of a spoon, muddle til mint is well crushed. Cover and chill for 10-12 hours. (I poured mine into a 12 oz cup, so I didn’t have a big bowl in the fridge, wasting space. The syrup is thick so I used a rubber spatula to get it all out of the bowl. I actually let mine steep for closer to 24 hours because I was really sick on Derby day and couldn’t get out of bed.)

Then, strain out the mint leaves, and discard. This takes awhile because the syrup is so thick and viscous. I just flipped the cup upside down over a strainer into another cup and left it for a few hours, til all the syrup had strained through. At this point, your simple syrup will last, covered, in the fridge for a few weeks. (But I have a feeling ours won’t last much longer than a week).

When you’re ready for a cocktail, add 2 Tbl of the syrup to a cup. (Let me tell you, 2 Tbl makes the drink really sweet, so if you aren’t into sweet drinks you may want to try 1 or 1 ½ Tbl of the simple syrup to start off with)

Stir in 3 oz of bourbon. Add crushed ice and stir again. Add a sprig of mint for garnish and enjoy the most delightful mint julep you've ever had. Derby hat optional.

If you have a favorite julep recipe, please leave it in the comments. I'm always open to new drink recipes ;)

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Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is a fun post! Dusty kept teasing me because I was calling it a "mint tulip"...I'm a dork! Next year I will be prepped for the Derby thanks to you :)

surlykitchen said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

we plan on making these frequently, they're so freaking good.

Wanna Be A Country Cleaver said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh I'm really excited about this. I've always wanted to try a proper mint julep but figured I'd have to wait to go down south to get one! Thanks lovely!!

claire said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Big hats + mint julep = best saturday ever!

love your recipes and I hope married life is amazing!

Mary said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I would love either one of those. I am relatively new here and I don't often comment. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy my visits here. Now I'm off to muddle. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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