It was Kentucky Derby Day a couple weeks ago, but I was hardly in a Derby state of mind. I was in Chicago, the days marked by gray skies and frigid winds (yes, even in May), stuffing my face with hot dogs and Mexican chow. On Derby day, I was not in track-appropriate attire. I wore a t-shirt and shorts, stained with ash from ribs I was smoking.
But where there's bourbon, there's a way. Though I was serving up barbecue that evening, I wanted to honor Southern cuisine on such an important day. So a mint julep there would be. After the smoky fire of ribs, a blast of cool mint ice cream sounded like just the thing.
The mint julep is a brilliant cocktail, a study in contrasts. There's mint of course, flighty and effervescent. And there's bourbon, robust and complex and just a tad sweet—like a half-deserved slap from a comely Southern belle. There's nothing else to muck up the duet, save some crushed ice and a sprinkle of sugar. This ice cream follows the same principles to minty, bourbon-y bliss.
What bourbon you use is up to you. I'm partial to Bulleit, which has enough spicy rye kick to cut through an ocean of cream. But if you like it in your glass, chances are you'll like it in your ice cream. This is especially true if you serve boozy ice creams the way I like to: with a bit of the eponymous spirit dribbled on top, to tickle the nose and warm the palate. That said, this ice cream would also be killer nestled between two ginger spice cookies: a sandwich with an exquisite kick.
However you have it, it's all you need to transport you to the sweet, warm days of a Kentucky Spring. Seersucker and all.
Mint Julep Ice Cream Recipe
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups well-packed mint leaves, thoroughly washed
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons bourbon
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Bring cream and milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently. Stir in mint leaves, cover, and remove from heat. Let mint infuse for 2 hours at room temperature.
Remove mint leaves, pushing against them in a sieve to draw out all their flavor. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until lemony in color and thickened, then whisk into dairy. Cook custard over low heat, stirring frequently, until it coats the back of a spoon and a finger swipe leaves a clean line. Stir in bourbon and salt, then transfer to a container to chill overnight.
The next day, churn ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately as soft serve or harden in freezer for two to three hours. Let ice cream soften for ten minutes on counter before serving. For a stronger bourbon kick, pour a spoonful of bourbon over ice cream just before serving.
Ice cream machine