5@5 - Mint juleps, five ways for Derby Day
May 1st, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Kyle Ford is Rémy Cointreau's corporate mixologist, co-founder of Ford Mixology Lab and the mixologist at Siro's of Manhattan.

Ah, the mint julep. One of the oldest, most revered and hotly debated fixtures of the drinking world. The name originates from the Arab word "julab," which was likely a medicinal rose water concoction. The modern-day mint julep, however, came about in the early 1800s. Frederick Marryat captured the mint julep best in 1839's A Diary in America:

"I once overheard two ladies talking in the room next to me, and one of them said, 'Well, if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a mint julep' - a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like American ladies, irresistible."

So, what is a mint julep? Simply: a drink of cognac, whiskey, or rum; sweetened with sugar, iced and flavored with fresh spearmint. A highly ritualistic tipple, I'll leave you to judge which is best.

For each, follow these basic julep preparation guidelines:

In a pre-chilled glass or julep cup, add the syrup and mint leaves. Muddle lightly, just to release the oils. Discard the bruised mint, half pack the glass with crushed ice, pour on the base spirit, stir to chill and top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a bunch of fresh spearmint, stems cut up to the leaves.

That said, I present you with a collection of five juleps, from the contemporary to the classic.

mint julep

1. Siro's Ginger Julep (Kyle Ford, 2012)
– 2 oz bourbon
– 1/2 oz cognac
– 1/2 oz ginger syrup
– 6 spearmint leaves
– Candied ginger, garnish

"At Siro's, we wanted to present an iconic julep with a unique twist. Spicy ginger pairs beautifully with a high rye bourbon whiskey. Our julep is further elevated with a touch of cognac, in a nod to the drink's origin."

2. Peach Thunderbolt Julep (Charles H. Baker, Jr., 1939)
– 3 oz gold rum
– 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 1 peach (peeled, stoned, quartered, added with rum)
– 6 spearmint leaves

"The Peach Thunderbolt is named just as much for its effect as it is a place just south of Savannah. While bourbon with peach would be a no-brainer, the Thunderbolt uses instead gold rum. Mixed with fresh lime, mint and peach, this is a sip worthy of old Georgia."

3. Manila Hotel Julep (Monk Antrim, 1926)
– 2 1/2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
– 2 teaspoons rum float
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 6 spearmint leaves
– 4 cherries, garnish
– 1 ripe pineapple stick, garnish

"This julep was discovered by Charles H. Baker in his travels to Manila during American Prohibition, great proof of the drink's popularity and reach. The float of rum and additional fruit garnish make this julep quite delectable."

4. Prescription Julep (Quackenboss, M.D., 1857)
– 1-1/2 oz cognac
– 1/2 oz rye whiskey
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 6 spearmint leaves

"'Quackenboss, M.D.' recommended in Harper's Monthly to repeat this dose three to four times daily until cold weather. Humor aside, this smart blend of cognac and rye whiskey makes for a delicious julep."

5. Old Kentucky Julep (Senator Henry Clay, 1850)
– 2-1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 6 spearmint leaves

"The whiskey mint julep grew in popularity after the Civil War and eventually secured its place as the expected julep standard. This is what you should be sipping come Derby Day."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Events • Kentucky Derby • Think


soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Jim

    I agree with redinaustin, infuse the simple syrup with the fresh mint, makes entertaining much easier, then garnish with a fresh mint sprig...I like chocolate mint for this

    May 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  2. Boo

    I like mint juleps...not these pimped up versions....who needs them?

    May 4, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  3. RedinAustin

    I love a julep. Especially on Derby Day in my pewter cup, but I hate the texture of the crushed/muddled mint leaves. To fix that I always make simple syrup and steep bruised mint leaves in it while it cools. Then strain it into a bottle and store in the fridge. Makes it easier to make juleps for a crowd too. No having to muddle each cocktail individually. Another added bonus is a tablespoon of the mint syrup in a glass of club soda is both refreshing and the best cure for an upset stomach I've ever found.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  4. Craig

    My hubby and I will attend a wedding on Derby Day: the first time in our ten year marriage that our cultures have so neatly overlapped. Cinco de Mayo is an important celebration in my husband's culture and I cut my teeth on Julep cups and crops. We decided tonight that a flask is entirely appropriate for 5:24 (Central!). Wedding be damned.

    That said the perfect Julep is 7-8 SMALL spearmint leaves (not that bright green crap in the produce aisle), 1-2 teaspoons (not heaping tablespoons) sugar, 1/2 shot spring water. Muddle with a sturdy piece of hickory in a silver cup. Set in the back of the 'fridge while you crush your ice (by hand is best) – about half an hour in the 'fridge is good.

    Pull 3-4 Julep cups out of the fridge at a time (use a linen napkin so your hands don't warm the cups). Fill to the brim with crushed ice and top with Rye (Old Overholt is a good choice since you can use it for Sazeracs too). Stir quickly with the handle of a chilled silver spoon. Share. Repeat until the last wobbly pony crosses the line.

    Raise one to Penny, Ron and that 'incredible machine' Secretariat!

    May 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  5. Erlinda

    The Old Kentucky Julep seems to be the most authentic, so that's fine by itself. (My mother, her parents and other relatives were born in Kentucky, so I claim authenticity by osmosis.) That said, the ginger one looks tempting. If you don't have silver (plated?) mint julep cups, it helps if you have your baby cup...there is something about sipping a mint julep from a metal cup. I makes a difference.

    May 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  6. Keith

    I have to agree with Brian it must be bourbon. Wouldn't a "Rum Julep" be a Mojito?

    May 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  7. JOHNNY LEXINGTON

    IF IT AINT GOT BOURBON IT AINT A JULEP. PERIOD.

    May 2, 2012 at 11:45 am | Reply
  8. Ken Tuckee

    Since I'm the only one who drinks them I go for a real simple mix. Rocks glass with crushed ice, a big dose of bourbon and a splash of very cold spearmint schnapps.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:32 am | Reply
  9. SFRich

    I gotta agree with Brian. Forget the rum, the rye, the cognac, the ginger, etc. All you need is to spin the spearmint leaves, a few Tbsp of sugar, and some ice in a blender for a few seconds. Then fill up a tall glass with the slurry and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Finish it off by adding some good Kentucky bourbon "to taste" then enjoy.

    It's the best way to enjoy the Kentucky Derby (or just a lazy summer afternoon).

    May 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  10. Sam Meyer

    While I am a hardcore Charles H. Baker, Jr. fan, I've never found a better julep than made by Chris McMillian at the Bar UnCommon in New Orleans:
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJV-O1e10z8&w=640&h=390]

    I follow his recipe slavishly, using peach syrup from Monin, but I do tend to omit the recitations.

    May 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  11. Brian

    In what world would you ever get a rum mint julep? Heck, even a rye mint julep is almost blasphemy. The julep should be bourbon 100 out of 100 times.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply

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