Born and raised in the state of New York, I am a Yankee through and through – even though I now reside in the decidedly southern* city of Washington, DC. That does not, however, preclude me from enjoying one of the South’s greatest culinary gifts to the world, the Mint Julep.
Read below for the full recipe!
The Mint Julep
2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz + 1-2 Dashes Simple Syrup
Fill a highball glass or, better yet, a silver julep cup a third to half full with fresh mint leaves (the smaller the better as these are the most fragrant). Add 1/2 oz simple syrup and muddle gently – press down firmly but don’t grind up the leaves. Discard the mint, pressing out as much of the sugar and mint oils as you can. Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice, then add your Bourbon and a dash or two more of simple syrup, to replace what you lost with the mint leaves. Top with more crushed ice until there’s a nice mound on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint (slap it against your palm a few times first to release the fragrance). Get your straw, give it a bit of a stir, and dust it with some powdered sugar.
Sip slowly on the veranda.
The Mint Julep is a deeply refreshing drink. Your Julep should taste, first, of Bourbon, but also minty, sweet, smooth, and ice cold. Don’t skimp on the mint, but use it wisely: discard the mint once muddled, and don’t over-do it by grinding up the leaves. You want to bruise the leaves to extract the flavorful oils, not unleash the leaves’ powerful and not-too-pleasant underlying vegetal flavors (much less end up with mint in your teeth). Stop once the leaves start to change from bright green to brown or black.
Do not settle for Juleps with a paltry handful of mint leaves or, worse, artificial mint syrup. You’re better than that!
The Julep goes back over a thousand years as a macerated, flavorful concoction, intended as medicinal but with dubious effect. But the Julep we know and love today began to take shape in the late 1700s, and David Wonrich traced the first mention of mint in a Julep to 1802. The Mint Julep was once widely popular throughout the country and widely imbibed in the North and the South, city and country. Some time over the last century or so, the Mint Julep came to be closely associated with the rural, agrarian South – but that’s no reason we can’t enjoy them wherever we happen to be. Especially in the summer. Especially on a veranda.
Does it have to be Bourbon? To a Southerner, anything else might be heresy. But the earliest Mint Juleps were more likely to be made with Brandy than Bourbon. Play around with this one: equal parts Brandy and Rye could be amazing in a drink like this.
*If it’s south of the Mason-Dixon Line (the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania), it’s in the South. QED.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper