The Mint Julep is one of those grand old drinks that everyone has heard of, but rarely ordered. To experience it properly, you really do need to have it in a classic mint julep cup, shiny silver, coated with a thin film of ice, piled high with finely crushed ice, and garnished with mint. On a hot summer day, when all of your chores are done, it's hard to imagine anything better.
It is usually made with find Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, but brandy was most likely the original spirit that was used. Rye whiskey works well too.
- 3 ounces whiskey (or brandy)
- 4 whole sprigs spearmint
- 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Garnish: Mint sprigs and dusted with powdered sugar.
- Muddle in a cocktail shaker until the sugar is dissolved and the mint is blended in.
- Add ice, and then shake well.
- Strain into a silver mint julep glass (or highball) filled with finely cracked or shaved ice.
- Add more ice to bring level back to the top.
- Garnish with additional mint sprigs, then lightly dust the mint sprigs with powdered sugar.
There are two traditional aspects of the Mint Julep, which many will see as critical to it's proper execution and service.
The ice that the drink is served with is usually finely crushed or shaved ice. One common way to produce this ice, is through the use of what is known as a Lewis Bag. This is essentially a small canvas bag that you put the ice in, then pound with a mallet in order to crush it into a fine snow. The cloth of the bag will wick away any water that is produced, leaving you with a fine powdery ice that you can fill the glass with.
The second signature of the Mint Julep, is the use of a silver julep glass. Usually 6 to 8 ounces in size, made of silver, with sides that slope slightly outward.
THE MINT JULEP: The Very Dream of Drinks
Chris McMillian is a New Orleans bartender who is famous for his expansive historical knowledge, of New Orleans in general, but cocktails in specific. One of the drinks that he is perhaps the most well known for is the Mint Julep, specifically because he has a style of making it in which he recites the below:
FROM THE OLD RECEIPT OF SOULE SMITH, DOWN IN LEXINGTON, KY
THE GRAVESEND PRESS
Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep---the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings. The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips its infant leaf into the same stream that makes the bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. The crushing of it only makes its sweetness more apparent. Like a woman’s heart, it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside the gurgling brooks that make music in the pastures it lives and thrives.
When the Blue Grass begins to shoot its gentle sprays toward the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to Old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demand the wedding. How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar until it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush you mint within it with a spoon---crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away---it is a sacrifice.
Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to col, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed, no stirring is allowed---just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find a taste and odor at one draught.
When it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant, cold and sweet---it is seductive. No maiden’s touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream, it is a dream itself. No other land can give so sweet a solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you so in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like Old Bourbon whiskey.