Last weekend at a garden party I got to chatting with RWH and the conversation wandered to mint juleps, how it was about that time for them. He asked me if I had a favorite recipe and I replied it’s hard to go wrong with bourbon, mint and sugar of any preparation. He retorted, I beg to differ. I have the perfect recipe for mint juleps. I listened with rapt attention, like he was giving me the secret recipe for Coca~Cola or Alma Abernathy’s cheese straws. This is what he told me:
Choose your favorite Kentucky Bourbon.
- Make ahead a simple syrup using 2 parts fresh Kentucky spring water and one part pure cane sugar.
- Bring the simple syrup to a boil and then cool rapidly in a large bucket of ice and keep it chilled in the bucket of ice. Set aside.
- Crack (not crush) ice by holding cubes in a white linen napkin and rapping aggressively with a spoon to crack the ice.
- Transfer the ice into a tall julep glass along with a sprig of mint that has been gently bruised by squeezing the leaves between your thumb and forefinger.
- Slowly pour the simple syrup over the cracked ice and bruised mint until the glass is three quarters full.
Lastly (and most importantly) discard all of these ingredients because you never, ever want to ruin your favorite Kentucky Bourbon.
OK, the Kentucky native son had me at Kentucky spring water. All joking aside, when reading through countless versions of the legendary bluegrass libation, including RWH‘s above, you’d think folks were preparing holy water for baptism with all the ceremony, precise instructions and exacting ingredients.
To Kentuckians, a mint julep is more than a drink; it’s a cup of emotion, full of tradition. — Southern Living
A mint julep is not the product of a FORMULA. It is CEREMONY and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion. — The Buckner Mint Julep Ceremony
Author Walker Percy, in his 1975 essay Bourbon describes what to do after the elaborate preparation: Then settle back in your chair for half an hour of cumulative bliss.
Everybody has a Perfect Mint Julep Recipe
The common elements of all perfect mint julep recipes are the use crushed ice and chilled silver cups or glasses for serving. After that, all pride rests on whether to use muddled mint with sugar (granulated? powdered?) versus a simple syrup: combining water (distilled? tap?) and sugar and whether to soak mint in bourbon in the syrup. Oh my, what is a southern girl to do?
After reading through oodles recipes, I concluded that the difference in them lies in the number of juleps you intend to make. Serving a few? Go for the sugar-muddled-mint route. Having a crowd over? Definitely make a batch of juleps ahead of time using simple syrup, kind of like punch in a jug, then prep the cups and pour. Simple as that.
A Mint Julep Tutorial
Last weekend KK and TSK served up mint juleps for an office party, and I insisted on a photo-op. They were serving a crowd, so the punch-in-a-jug method made for rapid prep. They use this recipe from Foodnetwork.com.
KK preps mint sprigs for garnish, buys crushed ice from a local seafood vendor and has her jug of juleps ready to pour.
As a special touch she dusts the mint sprigs in powdered sugar. It takes no time, and enhances the frosted effect on the silver cups.
Finish with short straws — so your guests will get a nose-full of mint as they sip.
After enjoying our Mint Juleps watching the sunset over the Rappahannock River, I was thankful that a Kentuckian way back decided to corrupt his bourbon with the sweet, minty elixir. No matter how you get there, by ceremony or perfect formula, nothing says Porch Season like a Mint Julep.
May 4, 2015