by Crystal & Ashlee - May 28, 2020
The 2020 Kentucky Derby may be postponed until September, but Saturday, May 30th, is National Mint Julep Day. We’ll never pass up an excuse to mix up one of our favorite classic warm-weather cocktails. And the Southern Belles’ Julep just happens to be our favorite variation so far.
Discovering the Mint Julep
We discovered our love for mint juleps (and bourbon, really) several years back. Derby parties were being planned all over the country, and we decided to take part in the festivities for the first time ever. Honestly, we simply couldn’t resist the glamorous hats and the seersucker suits! After we figured out what to wear, it dawned on us that neither of us had ever actually tasted a Mint Julep. So, we set out to find the perfect recipe. Along the way, we also learned a lot about the interesting origins and evolution of this classic American cocktail. You can read more about it in our post entitled Short and Sweet: Fast Facts About the Mint Julep.
Variations on a Theme
After scouring the internet for recipe inspiration, we settled on four different variations from a traditional classic to a julep with a rum and cognac twist. We’re revisiting our favorite julep today, but you can find the other recipes here. Whichever recipe you fancy, you can’t go wrong if you follow these simple tips:
Tips for Julep Making and Enjoying
- Bourbon really shines. Use a good one.
- Juleps must be cold. Use pre-chilled cups or glasses. Lots of crushed ice is key. The finer, the better.
- Opt for fresh mint.
- We prefer the look and feel of a clear glass.
- Dress it up with a sugared mint sprig and a short straw.
- Find a porch or a patio somewhere and sip it slowly. Juleps are perfect for sipping over a long conversation.
Why We Love the Southern Belles' Julep
We both favor strong, sippable cocktails (think Sazerac or Vieux Carré) over sweet ones, and this one fits the bill. We prefer the lighter taste and texture over variations made with simple syrup. Served in a clear old-fashioned glass to showcase the caramel-colored bourbon and garnished with a sprig of mint that has been dipped in powdered sugar, this drink is as beautiful in presentation as it is friendly to the palate. This one is a winner!
The Southern Belles' Julep Recipe
We adapted the following recipe from a creation by Colonel Joe Nickell, an honest to goodness Kentucky Colonel. The original was featured in his book entitled The Kentucky Mint Julep. Another classic julep recipe, this variation eschews simple syrup in favor of plain ole’ water and granulated sugar. We started with the amounts of sugar, water and bourbon as recommended in the original recipe and then made adjustments to our individual tastes. For example, if you like a little more sweetness, add more sugar.
- 5 Fresh mint sprigs, plus one for garnish
- Powdered Sugar (for garnish)
- 1 tsp Granulated cane sugar
- 3 tsp Water
- Crushed Ice
- 1-1/2 ounces Bourbon
Wash your mint and select a couple of large, pretty sprigs to use as garnish. Dredge them in powdered sugar and set them aside while you mix your cocktails. The sugared mint really adds to the presentation. We can’t see ourselves ever making another Mint Julep without it!
To make the julep:
Twist up your mint leaves to release the oils and place them in a mixing glass with water and cane sugar for muddling. Once well muddled, allow the mixture to stand a minute or two before discarding the mint. Next, pour the mixture into a pre-chilled, clear old-fashioned glass filled almost to the brim with crushed ice. Follow with bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon). Stir well, and garnish with powdered mint sprigs and a short, decorative straw.
If you get the chance to try the Southern Belles’ Julep, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear what you think!