In an earlier post, a reader expressed his love of bourbon, and I promised to deliver unto him a cocktail which uses bourbon as its base. So here it is, the mint julep, the preferred drink of the proper southern gentleman.
There are many ways to prepare a mint julep. I'll teach you two, the one you can ask for in a bar, and the traditional method you can make when you're feeling decadent.
The more standard method of constructing a mint julep requires bourbon, mint leaves, crushed ice, sugar, and soda water.
First, take 4 to 6 mint leaves and 1 or 2 tablespoons of granulated white sugar. Drop them in the bottom of either a Collins or highball glass, and muddle them. Then fill the glass with crushed ice, and add 3 ounces of bourbon. Stir the mix, then fill with soda water. Add a mint sprig, stir it some more, and the drink is ready to serve. Sip the drink, and picture yourself watching the horses at Churchill Downs.
The more traditional method uses the same ingredients, minus the soda water. You need to get a mint julep glass, basically a silver goblet. Muddle 4-6 leaves of mint and 2 tablespoons of sugar, and muddle it in the bottom of the glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice, and add 3 ounces of bourbon and stir. Garnish with 4 sprigs of mint, and add a short straw. The idea behind the short straw and extra mint is to force the drinker to shove his nose into the mint, and inhale the scent of the mint combining with the scent of the bourbon. Enjoy the drink, and picture yourself on the porch of a Virginia plantation home on a hot summer's afternoon.
The mint julep has been embraced as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby also sells the most expensive mint julep in the world. Served in a 24k gold plated mint julep glass, it used Woolford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. Costing a cool $1,000 dollars, the proceeds go to taking care of retired thoroughbred racing horses.
There are seemingly many variations of the Mint Julep, but in reality, they're all members of the same drink family, known as Smashes. A mint julep is a fancy name for a bourbon smash, a mojito is a rum smash, and a Kremlin colonel is a vodka smash. I guess if you used absinthe, it'd be a "Hulk Smash!", Patent Pending. All that changes is the alcohol.
A similar family of drinks are the Stingers. The variation there is that the mint and sugar is replaced with an ounce of creme de menthe. A stinger is usually served in a cocktail glass, neat, rather than in an ice filled Collins glass. It's creamier, and a little less sweet.