I love the mint julep as a drink and also as a metaphor. Scarcely is there a drink that excites me more than a well-formed mint julep. But if you think that all mint juleps are sweet, think again. Sometimes they can be quite robust and even made with liquors other than bourbon!
The making of a mint julep with something other than bourbon reminds me of a time when I attended the Kentucky Derby. Unforgettable were my lodgings, in what was probably a crack den at the end of the runway. Every time a thundering jet took off, I would have to duck, they were that low in altitude. I survived this scene of the planes roaring over the building for only a few hours before I escaped from that hell-hole. It was also searing hot out, the kind of temperature that makes my usual smile melt off my face. What I really wanted was something hand-held that could blot out the uncomfortable experience of dripping salty sweat down my back and those dicey residents of this motel on either side of me. I wanted to get the hell out of there, but it was the Kentucky Derby and lousy rooms were a thousand dollars a night. I wanted a libation, but not the stuff I was served at the track. That drink served in a commemorative glass was an abomination of all things bourbon in my own knowledge. What I paid fourteen dollars for may or may not have ever held bourbon, although the color was reminiscent of brownish. Frozen into a stalk of poor ice was a black slimy hunk of mint. Remember, I was at Churchill Downs and the mint julep was supposed to taste somewhat like a mint julep. What I got was utter disappointment.
What not to do
- Do not freeze your mint into the ice
- Do not use cheap bourbon
- Do not use dried mint and hope for the best
- Do not laugh at the drunks who can’t hold their liquor
- Do not repeat
What I consider to be a pretty good mint julep
- 3 oz. Bonded Bourbon- you know- 100 proof. Essential
- 1 tablespoon Demerara Sugar- Essential to use something other than white sugar
- Crushed ice- your cold draft machine ice, crushed in a Lewis bag or like
- The freshest Spearmint-always well washed! Serious!
- Crush that ice and set aside
- Lightly muddle the mint to reveal the oils with some sugar
- Add some bourbon, ice and more sugar
- Muddle very lightly, add ice, stir, bourbon, stir, mint, stir, bourbon etc.
- I used a copper core, sterling silver bourbon cup that dates back to the 1930’s. You should use a glass
The first time that I enjoyed a roasted peach mint julep, it was with real Southern grown peaches. It’s hard to explain the joy that you feel when you bite into a juicy, tree ripened peach. I’m happy to say that bourbon, when mixed with mint and a fresh, juicy peach is one of those quintessential experiences of life. Now imagine that same peach, oozing with liquid. It has been split and then roasted in a very slow oven for at least two hours at 200 degrees, first sprinkled with Angostura Bitters. These peach chunks should last at least a week in the fridge and longer if submersed in 100 proof bourbon.
The Full Details
- 1 half of a roasted peach
- 3 oz. Bottled in Bond-100 proof Bourbon
- Fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Demerara Sugar
- Muddle the roasted peach with the bourbon and a bit of mint
- Add a bit more mint, then sugar- repeat
- Serve ice cold with a few shakes of Angostura over the top
Another fun mint julep that takes you to another place is as easy as switching out the typical bourbon with a rye whiskey of your choice. I think the peppery, cinnamon notes that evolve from rye whiskey act as a foil against the usually candy sweet bourbon. That’s why I suggested using a bottled in bond bourbon over an eighty-proof version. I find those to be way too sweet for my cocktails. I like them dry over sweet. Just my way.
- 3 oz. Straight Rye- that means over two years old. Worth the extra money!
- Bunch of mint
- Crushed ice
- Turbanado sugar – has a nutty aroma and flavor
- Muddle the mint and the sugar together with the bourbon and ice
- Do not over muddle the mint. It will disappoint you by tasting vegetal
- When the glass frosts up, it’s ready to supp!
The final Mint Julep is made with Mezcal. And for the record, it works much better than with tequila, which is too sweet in my opinion. Mostly from the used American Bourbon oak barrels. You see, when bourbon is produced, it is by law required to rest in new American oak casks. Once the bourbon is finished aging the barrels are sold off. Usually to places like Scotland or Mexico or even the Caribbean. That’s why you can taste notes of bourbon whiskey in your Scotch Whisky, your Tequila and in your rum.
Mezcal Mint Julep
- 3 oz. Mezcal
- 1 bunch mint
- Demerara Sugar (to taste)
- Crushed Ice
- Muddle mint with the Mezcal and the sugar
- Add ice, add mint, add Mezcal, add sugar
- When filled, serve with a smile!