My mom's big into the American Triple Crown, the famed trio of horse races that kicked off just this last weekend with the Kentucky Derby. She calls me just prior to every event to let me know it's on and who the favorite is. I've never watched until this year, and for some reason, got it in my head to have a crack at making a mint julep, said cocktail being the official libation of the Derby. I consulted the internet and came up with this recipe from the bartendter at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C.
Making a julep, it turn's out, is not something you just up and do. It takes a bit of planning - for this recipe at least. Most folks don't keep bourbon on hand, nor nice silver julep cups, nor sprigs of fresh mint, nor San Pellegrino sparkling water, so I had some work to do and about 30 minutes before post time (that qualifies as planning ahead for me). It just happed that I had a bottle of Jim Beam left over from a party years ago where LB and I wanted to feature a well stocked (but not snooty) bar, but the mint and sparkling water would have to be acquired. I high-tailed it for the store. I had no expectations of finding julep cups, but thought I had a decent shot at fresh mint.
It appears others in Stafford were similarly inspired. Not a sprig of fresh mint was to be had. I settled for the dried stuff in a bottle, completely forgot about the sparkling water and headed home.
I generally followed the Willard recipe, but muddling the dried, crumbled leaves required some thought. I didn't want a julep with a bunch of bits of mint floating up through my straw. I muddled I enough mint for two drinks (about 4 teaspoons) in with 2 oz of bourbon and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and then let it steep for several minutes. I then filtered the brew through a paper coffee filter into two chilled crystal glasses, making sure to roll up and squeeze the filter to extract all the minty, sugary, bourbony goodness. Finally, I followed up with the crushed ice, an additional oz of bourbon per glass, and bam! I had two quite tasty juleps. It was my first effort and taste of julep. LB was pleased and so was I.
So much so that I went to the store the next day for a dinner run and low and behold, there was fresh mint available. I grabbed some, remembered the sparkling water too, and had another crack. VERY tasty and may I say, quite asthetically pleasing in a crystal old-fashioned glass. I like the show of the green mint contrasted with the play of sunlight captured through the crystal. Judge for yourself, but my photography skills didn't really do it justice.