May 6, 2011

Derby Day.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year: Derby day!  If you've never been to the Derby, you should put it on your list.  Seeing the races live at Churchill Downs is one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.  I mean, it's a whole day dedicated to cute dresses, fun hats, beautiful horses, and of course, frosty mint juleps.  Luckily it's very easy to recreate that particular part of the Derby experience, even if you can't make it to Louisville.  Although, I should warn you... nothing really compares to the juleps they serve at Churchill Downs.

Mint Julep

Fresh mint
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Kentucky Bourbon
Crushed ice
Metal (preferably silver) julep cup

1. Make a simple syrup.  Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring to keep sugar from burning, until the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool at least 1 hour.

2. Take 3-4 sprigs of mint leaves - leaves only, NO STEMS - and muddle them in the bottom of your julep cup.
3. Heap the crushed ice on top of the mint.  Be generous with the ice, like enough that you think there's no room for the bourbon, and for the love of Pete, DO NOT use anything except crushed or shaved ice.  To make your own crushed ice, dump some ice cubes in clean cotton dish towel, beat them with a kitchen mallet, and immediately dump into your cup while the ice is still dry.

4. Add about 2 tsp of the simple syrup and 3 oz of bourbon. You can adjust this depending on how sweet you want yours to be, and you can refrigerate any left over syrup for up to a year.

5. Stir gently with your straw until the julep cup is nice and frosted.  

6. Go find yourself a TV tuned to the race, sip, and enjoy.

*NOTE: There are lots of ways to make a mint julep.  Some people don't use simple syrup at all - they just muddle mint, sugar, and water then add the ice and bourbon.  Other people add the mint leaves to the simple syrup mixture and let it steep overnight.  However you like to do it, all julep aficionados will tell you, you must ALWAYS use bourbon.  All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon.  And while bourbon CAN be made outside of Kentucky, your best bet is to go with a true Kentucky bourbon.  You have plenty of choices : Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, and several more.  Despite what people might try to tell you, Jack Daniels is not bourbon.  Please do not make a julep with it; you'll ruin the durn thing.

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