Derby Day is upon us! Aside from choosing the perfect hat, the single most important decision you can make leading up to the running of the 2015 Kentucky Derby is how you're going to make the perfect mint julep. There are key elements to the perfect, classic mint julep.
Let's start with the most important element. The bourbon. Don't be that amateur that uses a subpar whiskey or a any kind of scotch. Jack Daniels has no place in a mint julep. J&B better not even enter the room. You need bourbon. And not just any bourbon. You need a wheat-based bourbon. Rye bourbons have their place in many classic cocktails, (Bulleit's Small Batch Rye, for example, makes a mean manhattan). However, for a mint julep, you need a Maker's Mark or a Larceny. Buffalo Trace might also make the cut, as it is equal parts rye and wheat. For the most authentic Kentucky Derby mint julep, go with Woodford Reserve.
Is ice really important when making a cocktail? Yes. Yes, it is. The best mint juleps are made with crushed ice. Ice that has been crushed to a powder. Use a towel and a mallet and unleash your unholy ice-hating fury upon it. But do it quickly because you want the ice to remain dry.
You don't need much. Get it as fresh as possible, and use only 2-3 sprigs of it.
Making the Julep
Mint juleps are traditionally served in an 8oz metal cup. In a pinch, any similar glass will do. The real benefit of serving it in a metal cup is that the cup will get a very nice frost on the outside. The best mint juleps look like boozey, minty, adult snow cones. Once you have your drinking vessel, here's what you do:
- Mix a little bit of sugar and water in the bottom of your cup. A 1/4oz of simple syrup can work as well. Add two sprig's worth of mint leaves (around 8) and gently muddle.
- Add 2oz of your favorite bourbon.
- Crush your ice and pack it into the cup. If you have a metal cup, fill it up halfway, and give it a vigorous stir to get a nice coating of ice on the outside of the cup. Then pack in the rest of the crushed ice. Again, it should look like a snow cone.
- Garnish with a mint leaf. Insert straw.
- Enjoy like a boss.
And that's it! Now get out there and enjoy Derby Day like a Pro!
Wylie Withers is the Commissioner of the Booze League and Co-Host of the BoozeCast. He spent many years as 1/3 of the comedy improv duo The Merry Misfits of Doom before pursing a Masters in Boozing (with a Marketing focus). His posterior was featured on the final episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, earning him his SAG card. He'd like to give a shoutout to his liver and left kidney for always being there for him. Follow him on Twitter @wyliewithers or reach him via email firstname.lastname@example.org.