As a category of cocktails, juleps pack a powerful punch: they are basically just whiskey, herbs, and a hit of sweetener, gently mixed and served over crushed ice. These will get you completely snockered, and fast. As a day-drinking category made famous by the Kentucky Derby* (usually held the first Saturday in May, this year postponed until September), juleps are a delightful vehicle to keep things as chill and refreshing as possible on hot days.
They also happen to be super easy to make with ingredients you’ve probably got on hand. Though bourbon is the popular standard for the Derby, you’ll find julep recipes with rye whiskey, rum, cognac, or barrel-aged gin. Sub in basil for mint, and instead of simple syrup use that last spoonful of raspberry jam in the jar loosened up with a little warm water.
It’s basically a booze-your-own-adventure.
What’s not negotiable, however, is the ice experience: Juleps are defined by the use of crushed or pebble ice, with lots of chilly surface area in contact with the liquor to keep it cold, evenly diluting the powerfully-proofed beverage over time spent sipping. A well-insulated serving container also helps keep things cool for optimal afternoon porch sipping. Our Southern friends keep racks of silver julep cups around for just such occasions, but mint juleps are equally well served in squat tumblers, a double Old-Fashioned glass, or a pint Mason jar.
Find your fancy hat and let's get julep'n.
(Fair warning: this is decidedly NOT a Utah pour.)
- 2 - 3 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 - 1 1/2 ounces simple syrup (to taste)
- 3 – 4 sprigs fresh mint
Method: Spank a sprig of mint between your hands [as if you are clapping], place in the bottom of a chilled Julep cup, glass, or pint Mason jar. Add the bourbon and simple syrup. Gently stir to combine. Fill the glass with crushed ice to the rim. Spank another mint sprig or two and add as a garnish. Serve with a straw for optimal sipping to get all that minty goodness right up in your grill.
*What’s the Derby really like, you ask? Look up Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 essay, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” to get a sense of the complete debauchery of the event. It’s a marvel of sports reporting and travel journalism wrapped up in complete and utter sublime bullshit that stands the test of time more than forty years later. And it’s Hunter S. Thompson drinking whiskey for three straight days. Often in Julep form. Y’all are welcome.
And until we can all meet up in our favorite watering holes again, send some love to our friends in hospitality via One Small Miracle, the Downtown Alliance Tip Your Server campaign, and Utah’s Hospitality Tip Jar (Venmo: @UtahsHospitality-TipJar).