Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hot to Trot - The Mint Julep

Whilst living in the United States for eighteen months, I discovered the Mint Julep. Seeing it is the first Saturday in May, it seems only fitting we talk about this traditional Kentucky Derby day drink.
My take on the Mint Julep
The mint julep is a cocktail which contains a muddled and heavily iced mixture of bourbon, mint, sugar and water. It is a 'tea-style' cocktail, somewhat similar to a mojito in its construction. For those who live in northern states of Australia, I find the mint julep is perfect for the hot and humid conditions. My craving usually starts once the mercury starts rising and believe me, it is a craving.

My first experience with the mint julep occurred whilst on a trip to Washington DC, where in the Round Robin & Scotch Bar of the Willard Hotel you'll find the bar tender, Jim Hewes, making the best mint julep in DC (see below). I loved it so much we frequented this bar multiple times during trips to Washington DC from our temporary home in Summit, NJ.

The Willard Hotel is one of DC's more famous hotels and is traditionally where the Australian Prime Minister stays when visiting the US capital. Australian flags adorn masts outside the hotel when they are visiting, as we discovered on one of our trips. If you are ever in town, make the trip and be sure to try the The Willard Hotel's signature drink.

Mint Julep ingredients
The National Geographic has a summary of the recipe, but I have added my own version below:

  1. one-quarter cup of Maker's Mark bourbon
  2. one-quarter cup of San Pellegrino sparkling water
  3. a full teaspoon of caster sugar (more to taste)
  4. 8-10 mint leaves
  5. 2 cups of dry crushed ice
  6. a thin strip of lemon peel (optional)
  7. a straw
  8. a glass from the freezer

  1. add the mint leaves, the teaspoon of sugar and half of the bourbon to the glass
  2. using a muddler (or the end of a rolling pin), muddle the mixture until it forms a tea
  3. add half-a-cup of crushed ice and half of the sparkling water, keep muddling (this time using the heel of a butter knife)
  4. add the rest of the ice, trying to keep it tightly packed
  5. pour in the remaining bourbon and sparkling water, stir again
  6. taste the cocktail, it shouldn't be sour, its very easy to under estimate the sugar so add more to taste
  7. optional: garnish with a sprig of mint and a dusting of sugar (plus the lemon peel if using)
  8. apparently you then put the straw in just behind the mint sprig, so you get a whiff when sipping
Share and enjoy,
The Diplomat