25 May 2012

The Mint Julep

On Cinco de Mayo this year, I went out and had margaritas and Mexican food with Julia and some friends, but that afternoon I had to make a certain cocktail. The event was the Kentucky Derby, and the cocktail was the classic Mint Julep.

I've written about this cocktail many times before, but I don't think I've ever shown one in my nickel-plated brass julep cups. I love these things, but so rarely get to use them. Click on the photo for the bigger version and you can see the thousands of tiny drops of condensation clinging to the metal. Enjoying it through a whole bouquet of fresh mint is also a really wonderful sensory experience.

I achieved a perfect Mint Julep thanks to one special ingredient: a cup of ice from a nearby Sonic Drive-In For those not familiar, it's a fast food chain where you drive up to a parking space, order through a speaker, and if you wish, eat your meal there after it's delivered by a young woman who may or may not be on rollerskates. Sonic is decent enough when I'm in the mood for it, but they have this rough little pelletized ice that is just amazing for the Mint Julep, which is really sort of an adult snow cone.

As much as I enjoyed my classic cocktail, I looked around at my ingredients and thought I could try something fun yet profane. I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon for the former, and have found it to be a reliable performer in one of my other favorite classic cocktails, the Manhattan. Could I have a peanut butter and chocolate moment here?

Benito's Manhattan Derby
2 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Sweet Red Vermouth
Fresh Mint
Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Old Fashioned Bitters
Bourbon-soaked Cherry

Muddle the Bourbon and Vermouth with fresh mint and small pieces of ice. Add more ice and shake thoroughly. Fill a tumbler with ice and add a few drops of a good quality dark bitters. Pour the cocktail over the ice and bitters and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a cherry. (I like to get a jar of maraschinos, drain out the red corn syrup, and replace it with Bourbon. Leave it in the fridge for months.) While I don't think this cocktail will ever catch on, it was a lot of fun and tasted great. It's less sweet and somewhat smoother than a Mint Julep, and I'm now wondering which of my 20 different bitters would best improve that cocktail...


fredric koeppel said...

I received an email press release a few weeks ago, on the subject of "Five Cocktails You May Never Have Heard Of." One was the mint julep. This was obviously written by a 22-year-old intern from Brooklyn.

Benito said...


I saw the same e-mail and thought perhaps it was written by someone raised in a cave.

As an addendum to this post, the mint julep I had at Churchill Downs was not great. Plastic cup, way too sweet, but glad I got the chance to have one there.


Paul M. Jones said...