Whether or not you can attend the Derby this year, you can drink like a Kentuckian while you watch the ponies race on screen. We’ve rounded up the perfect cocktails for hosting a Derby party, which is a great excuse to insist your friends wear their most elaborate, gigantic hats, take their seersucker suits out of winter storage, and attempt their best — or worst — Southern drawls.
The aptly-named julep cup is the vessel of choice for mint juleps: these are elegant vessels, made of silver, and shaped like a rather small tumbler. If you, like most of us, are not in possession of a bunch of silver cups that you use for one cocktail only, glass is also perfectly appropriate.
The proportions of a classic mint julep are always to taste, but traditionally include sugar, bourbon, mint leaves, and crushed iced. Many like to muddle their mint and sugar in the glass (like you would for a mojito), while others think the mint should remain intact, allowing it to provide more fragrance than taste. Many like to mix the easily soluble simple syrup with their bourbon and mint leaves, as this lends to a more blended and consistent drink.
Infusions are a great part of the julep for many: some folks, myself included, prefer to infuse their simple syrup with mint. You can achieve this effect easily by just adding chopped mint leaves to the sugar-water, simmering for a couple of minutes, and then straining your syrup. In these recipes, a sprig of mint on top simply serves as garnish, but the mint flavor is paired along with the sweetness.
My father, on the other hand, has always sworn by infusing the bourbon directly with mint.
“You take an old apple cider jug,” he tells me. “And just pour a fifth of Jack Daniel’s in it — well, you can use any bourbon you want, but I always used Jack Daniel’s. Then you just stuff it full of mint leaves. The longer you let it sit, the better. And as you use it, just replace the Jack Daniel’s every once in a while, and stuff in some more mint whenever you feel like it. Eventually the old mint breaks down into the bourbon, and it’s really quite pretty: it looks like vert-de-gris. You can strain out the old mint particles if it really matters to you, but I always liked the look of them in the glass myself.”
He’s right, of course. It really does look rather pretty.
Ole Smoky Moonshine Mint Julep Recipe
Stir up the competition for the Kentucky Derby! Nothing pairs better with a century-old horse race than century-old moonshine.
Blackberry Mint Julep Recipe
Why do blackberries make everything better? Some Bulleit bourbon, a dash of Chambord (a raspberry liqueur), and fresh blackberries lend a fresh, country feel to this classic cocktail.