Happy Derby Week, y'all! It's that time of year when I always miss my Old Kentucky Home. It's also that time of year when I wish I liked the mint julep, the traditional drink that honors the fastest two minutes in sports. This former Kentuckian likes mint, likes bourbon. But the combo has always been...meh. The hubby, who I met and married in Lexington, KY, has always agreed. Until now and I will get to that.
As Kentucky journalists, Jeff and I worked a few Derby Days and at the end would "reward" ourselves with a sickly sweet julep at Churchill Downs. Flash forward 15ish years and I finally decided to make the julep myself.
Y'all I love this julep. Maybe that's because I added in a few basil leaves. Maybe it's just because I made one expressly for me and hubby rather than consuming one made en masse at Churchill. I am sharing this with you just in time for you to hit the liquor store and make your own juleps to sip during Saturday's big race. Hurry -- those ponies aren't going to wait on you!
PS: Jeff said "this is the best mint julep I have ever had."
Adapted from thebar.com
Makes 12 cocktails
15 ounces bourbon
30 mint leaves, plus extra mint for garnish
6 (or more) basil leaves
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Wash mint and basil leaves, pat dry and place in a small bowl.
Cover leaves with 3 ounces of bourbon and let soak for 15 minutes.
Remove mint and basil leaves from bourbon and place in cotton cloth. Wring leaves over the bowl with the bourbon. Dip the cloth back into the bourbon and repeat a couple times. Really bruise the leaves. This is your mint extract.
For a mintier extract, put the bruised leaves into the bourbon; otherwise, leave as is. Set extract aside.
Now make your simple syrup. Bring one cup of water to a boil and stir in one cup of sugar. As soon as sugar dissolves, remove from heat and let sit -- covered -- for one hour.
Combine mint extract and simple syrup in a glass jar or container. Seal the jar and refrigerate overnight. BTW, if you kept the mint leaves in your mint extract, you will want to strain them when combining with the simple syrup or before mixing your julep.
Fill rocks glasses with ice and one ounce of bourbon. Add marinated julep mixture to taste -- more if you want a sweeter julep and less if you don't. Garnish with sprig of mint. Enjoy!