If you caught last year’s sharp tobacco industry satire , you might recall seeing the Big Tobacco barons down in Winston-Salem drinking their Juleps from silver beakers. The Mint Julep is also the cocktail traditionally drunk at the Kentucky Derby. For a taste of the South at home, you can use Cognac, as is said to be the old-fashioned way in some parts, but good Kentucky bourbon is probably your safest bet. Use only the smaller, tender leaves from a fresh bunch of mint, and while some schools advocate muddling the mint with granulated sugar, we don’t. Finely crushed or shaved ice is essential. It’s a drink best made in advance and can also happily be made in a jug. The Mojito is regarded by some authorities to be a descendent of the Julep, and can be made by substituting rum for bourbon, adding a healthy squeeze of lime juice, and crowning with soda.
- 10 fresh small mint leaves
- 30 ml sugar syrup
- 4 dashes Angostura bitters
- 75 ml bourbon
- 1 mint sprig, to garnish
- To serve: 1 straw (optional)
- 1Chill the glass you intend to use for at least 1 hour beforehand.
- 2In a bar glass or shaker, add mint leaves, sugar syrup and bitters and gently stir and press the mint with a bar spoon. The idea is to expose the flavour of the mint without opening up its more bitter characteristics. Add the bourbon and stir to combine. (You can leave this mixture to macerate for 30 minutes or more if you prefer a stronger mint flavour.)
- 3Pack the chilled glass with crushed ice and strain the mixture into it, then stir thoroughly, churning the liquid through the ice with a long-handled spoon until the outside of the glass is thoroughly frosted. Perfectionists insist on not touching the cold glass with bare hands, and some obsessives even insist on keeping a glove or cloth between warm hands and cold glasses while Juleps are being prepared.
- 4Add more crushed ice and bourbon to fill, garnish with a mint sprig and serve
with a straw. (The drink can be refrigerated, ready to go, at this stage – only the garnishing should be left to the last minute.)