Few drinks showcase whiskey better than the mint julep. And the best part is it's simple to make. We turned to a native Kentuckian, Surf Bar owner Perry Darby, for the skinny on how a real mint julep should be mixed.
"Mint juleps are the only way we could get mamaw to drink," laughs Darby, who grew up outside the small city of Ashland. "We'd tell her it was Derby Day every Saturday."
Ingredients • 2 oz. bourbon • 1 Tbs. simple syrup • 1 Tbs water • 2-3 mint leaves
1. Start with a good bourbon. Churchill Downs in Louisville uses Woodford Reserve for their $1,000 juleps on Derby Day (in gold-plated cups sipped through silver straws). For our purposes, Maker's Mark makes a solid mid-level substitute.
2. Don't be annoying in your pursuit of authenticity. We're drinking whiskey here. If you have a silver or pewter cup and crushed ice, by all means, bring them out. But a decent glass and regular old ice cubes will certainly suffice. If you can, skip the plastic.
3. Make your own simple syrup. This couldn't be easier: Boil two cups of water and then add a cup of sugar. Reduce heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. You can put this syrup in a jar and use it over and over. (Some recipes call for a 1:1 ratio, but real bourbon drinkers prefer to taste their whiskey over the sugar).
4. Let's get to mixing. Bourbon goes in the glass first, followed by simple syrup and water. Pour into a shaker, give it a few tumbles, and pour back into the glass. Add mint leaves on top. "I don't muddle," says Darby. "I think you should taste the bourbon, and I think the mint should be an aromatic."
5. Drink up, buttercup.
Of course, none of the ratios given here are set in stone. "I'm heavy on the bourbon," admits Darby, clarifying that his 3:1 water-to-sugar ratio (after adding the water to the cocktail) is less sweet than some folks prefer. Still, the syrup is plenty sweet to form a comfortable layer of foam across the top of the glass, inviting sip after sip, refill after refill. Hell, I think it's Derby Day right now.
Thanks to Perry Darby, every day can be derby day.