For many people, the first Saturday in May is synonymous with the running of the Kentucky Derby, which simply would not be complete without imbibing at least one bourbon-based mint julep. Decades before bourbon became popular, early American mint juleps (see Julep) were made with brandy, which argues the Kentuckian claim that they invented this lively libation. Although the traditional bourbon mint julep is currently the popular favorite, some juleps are still made with brandy as well as with rum and Scotch. The preferred mint julep vessel is a silver julep cup or mug, although a collins glass is perfectly acceptable. Hotly contested among true julep aficionados is whether or not to crush (muddle) the mint, with enthusiasts on both sides. Muddling brings out a more assertive mint flavor. See also Ginger Julep; Jocose Julep.
- 10 to 15 medium to large fresh mint leaves
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 2½ oz. (5 Tbsp.) bourbon
- 3 mint sprigs
Muddle mint leaves, sugar, and water in chilled julep cup or collins glass until leaves are crushed and sugar is dissolved. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon; stir thoroughly. Add more crushed ice to within ½ inch of rim; garnish with mint sprigs and serve with straw.