If you’ve been reading along, by now you know I’m from the South. It’s not something I talk about that often typically, but my stomach seems to be a little homesick lately (Nothing some good BBQ wouldn’t cure, but I can’t find the kind of pulled pork I want around here). Anyhow, today I’m bringing you a quintessential Southern drink: the mint julep. Funny thing though, I never had a mint julep when I lived in Georgia. The first one I had was at a restaurant in San Francisco. Haha.
I learned to make mint juleps from Alton Brown’s recipe about 2 years ago. And the first couple of times I made them, I followed his recipe precisely. And the cocktails turn out consistently good by following the recipe. But cocktails are not an exact science, in my opinion. So now I wing it. I mean, you know what tastes good and what you like. Besides, you can always drink your mistakes.
”The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes” — Julia Child (ran across that quote reading Every Kitchen Table the other day. I love it. That is exactly how I approach cooking).
1. Pick some mint (or buy some if you don’t have any growing. But mint is super easy to grow in a pot or in the ground. It’s practically a weed. And now is the perfect time to start growing it… think of all the applications: mint juleps, mojitos, fruit salads, etc).
2. Locate your bourbon. You do stock bourbon, don’t you? Anything from Jim Beam to Woodford Reserve Master’s Blend or Maker’s Mark or what-have-you. Even Jack Daniel’s, although that’s technically a whiskey could work in a pinch. I’m using Jim Beam Black here.
3. Take out two old fashion glasses. (Two because you should be drinking these with someone else). Into each glass, place 10-15 mint leaves depending on the size of the leaves (9-10 if they are large, closer to 15 if like mine they are small). On top of the mint, add about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Superfine sugar is best here although I didn’t use it this time. The superfine sugar dissolves easier. *Note: You don’t have to buy superfine sugar, you can make it by putting regular sugar in a blender or food processor and pulsing a few times. (I was too lazy to make superfine sugar this time. But it does make a difference… don’t be lazy like me!).
4. Using a muddler (or a wooden spoon handle if you don’t have a muddler – it works, just not quite as well), mash and bruise the mint. If you’ve made a mojito, it’s the same process. You want to get the mint to release its flavor. I sometimes add a small splash of seltzer when I’m doing this to help dissolve the sugar, but if you’re using superfine sugar you probably don’t need to add any seltzer yet.
5. Add crushed ice to the glasses, and top it off with 1 shot of bourbon to each glass. You can adjust the amount of bourbon here depending on your taste. Some people like more mint and less bourbon flavor. Others like to taste the bourbon. I like it somewhere in the middle. I want to taste it all, but not be overwhelmed by any of it.
6. Top off each glass with seltzer (or club soda or sparkling water). Give it a good stir. Garnish with a mint sprig. Go sit on your deck and pretend you’re out on an old wrap-around porch sitting in a rocking chair enjoying the balmy summer air. (If you still taste more bourbon than you like, you can pour this into a taller glass and add more seltzer… just don’t tell me about it or I might tease you).
Mint Julep (adapted from Alton Brown’s Mint Julep)
20-30 mint leaves, depending on size
3 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 shots of bourbon
seltzer water (or club soda or sparkling water)
1. Place half of the mint leaves in each of 2 glasses. Top it off with half of the sugar. Muddle.
2. Add crushed ice and a shot of bourbon to each.
3. Top it off with seltzer. Garnish with mint (optional). Enjoy.