Mint Julep

When I came across this opener in Imbibe Magazine - "Bourbon is as synonymous with the South as sweet tea..." - I had to smile. Not about the Bourbon, although that has been known to loosen up the frown lines, but about the sweet tea.

My California friends don't really know much about sweet tea and when they hear me say it - especially if I put on an accent, they wonder why I'm being so redundant. The look on their face says - why sweet + tea? It's just tea right?

Only if you've never gulped it down in a futile attempt to stay cool on a sweltering hot August afternoon. Then you would know why it's called sweet + tea.  With that said, today's drink is another example of a Southern obsession involving sweet elixirs.

World-renowned as the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep is as steeped in Southern tradition as Coca-Cola. Maybe more so considering a projected 100,000+ will be consumed next Saturday during the famed event.

There are only 4 ingredients in this drink. So you know what that means right? Yep, you gotta use the good stuff. A quality Bourbon is key and I'm using this one.

The next critical step is taking the time to make a proper mint-infused simple syrup. You will read dozens of recipes that call for simply muddling the mint and sugar. Trust me on this one y'all - make like you're below the Mason-Dixon line and take it SLOW. It takes time - overnight to be exact, to infuse the syrup with mint.

Mint Julep

1 oz mint syrup

1 oz water

2 oz Kentucky Bourbon

Crushed ice and mint for muddling and garnish

Gently muddle a handful of mint leaves in a cocktail glass - a silver cup if you really want to run with the Derby theme. I say gently because you don't want shredded mint in this drink - only the mint flavor. Fill the glass with crushed ice - yes, it MUST be crushed. This drink is strong and you want the ice to melt quickly to dilute it a bit. Add the Bourbon, mint syrup, water, and garnish.

Mint Syrup

1 cup sugar - (raw sugar enhances the caramel flavor of the Bourbon)

1 cup water

1 bunch mint

Bring water and sugar to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Add mint to a large jar with lid, gently muddle and pour sugar water mixture over it. Allow to cool, close jar and refrigerate overnight - remove the mint before proceeding.

Cheers Y'all! Don't forget to place your bets