Serious Eats: Recipes

Time for a Drink: Mint Julep

"You wouldn't use Velveeta when making a Mornay, would you? Then don't use cheap shortcuts with your julep."

[Flickr: ReeseCLloyd]

Saturday is Derby Day, which means that across the country, celebratory sippers will be nipping at their Mint Juleps, and more than 80,000 of the drinks are expected to be served over derby weekend at Churchill Downs.

Tragically, most of these juleps are likely to suck.

With a formula almost as old as the republic, the mint julep is a product of an era in which things were done much slower. Somewhat labor-intensive to properly make, a good mint julep can't be rushed, and cranking them out by the hundreds using prepared mixes and flavored syrups can only result in sadness.

That's not to say you can't prepare these in quantity for a derby party. If that's the course you want to take, I'd suggest relying instead on an assembly-line model of manufacture rather than trying to incorporate all your ingredients in one bottle, to simply be mixed with ice and a mint-sprig garnish.

To ensure julep success, here are some tips:

The overall lesson: the julep is flexible. Make the drink the way it tastes best to you (and these points should be viewed as suggestions on how to make a good-tasting julep, rather than rules). Anyone who says you're committing heresy by dashing a flavorful rum atop your julep, mixing it with brandy rather than bourbon or garnishing the drink with a pineapple stick should feel free to grab a beer.

Mint Julep

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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