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    Eat & Swig

    How To Make A Proper Mint Julep
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    In case you missed the announcement a few months back, the official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby is now made with Old Forester bourbon instead of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey.  The Early Times version of the classic cocktail was a longstanding tradition, but in light of the recent bourbon boom many had started to wonder in recent years why it wasn’t made with bourbon.  Early Times was, in fact, a bourbon up until the early 1980s, and the $1000 Mint Julep sold on Millionaire’s Row is made with Woodford Reserve bourbon.  The switch to Old Forester just makes sense.

    Tim Laird, America’s Chief Entertaining Officer, recently taught me how to make a proper Mint Julep.  Like most Louisvillians, I like a good Mint Julep once a year during Derby season, but making a really good one has always been a challenge.  Even if you muddle that mint to death, you’re still going to have mint chunks in your drink.  This is where Laird’s “Mint Juleps for Many” recipe is so genius- the mint is actually IN the simple syrup, so all you have to do is combine the simple syrup and bourbon over crushed ice (or Sonic ice, which you can buy by the bag at Sonic Drive-Ins).  There’s no need to muddle every single drink by hand, and you can even set up a Mint Julep bar for your guests to adjust their drinks to their liking.  Laird also recommends putting out iced tea on your Mint Julep bar so guests can combine it with the mint simple syrup to make a non-alcoholic Mint Julep.

    Here’s Laird’s “Mint Juleps for Many” recipe:

    In a tall glass with ice, add:

    2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon

    1 ounce Mint Simple Syrup

    Crushed ice

    Add a sipping straw and garnish with a large mint sprig.


    To make the mint simple syrup:

    1 part water

    1 part sugar

    1 part loosely-packed fresh mint leaves

    In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  When the water is clear and the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the mint leaves.  Let steep for 20 minutes.  Strain into a glass container and store in the refrigerator.

    Note:  You can adjust the sweetness of the drink by adding more or less of the Mint Simple Syrup.  The Mint Simple Syrup is also a great addition to iced tea.

    Over 120,000 Mint Juleps will be served at the Kentucky Derby, and the pre-mixed Old Forester Mint Julep is what will be in the glasses.  If you don’t want to make your own, this will do just fine over crushed ice.  Just let the ice melt a bit before drinking.  Cheers!

    You can find Laird's book, That's Entertaining, here.

    Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

    Maggie Kimberl's picture

    About Maggie Kimberl

    I'm a Louisville native with a passion for traveling and homegrown tomatoes. I write the bourbon news, which keeps me plenty busy since Louisville is the center of the bourbon universe. See bourbon news happening? Contact me on Twitter @LouGirl502!

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