The Kentucky Derby has one of the best traditions, I think. Mint Juleps. There aren't too many things that you can just stop whatever needs being done at the moment and legitimately tell your DH that you have to go and make yourself a drink. But on derby day, the making of the julep is a time honored tradition in our home.
Of course you need to have mint - and plenty of it. We grow our own here at our bucolic manor - spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, orange mint and chocolate mint - all in organic beds, all ready for
First we have to make the simple syrup. That means 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. I put the sugar into the saucepan and turn the heat on high (don't walk away from this, overheated sugar is highly flammable).
Add in cold water. I have 4 cups of sugar, so I need 2 cups of water (2:1). Cover it. Leave it alone. Let it come to a boil until it boils clear. Then it's done.
Add in a few handfuls of fresh mint. I've used the apple mint here. After you wash it off, just rip it off of the stem and twist it a little to bruise it, then dump it right in the boiling syrup. Let it simmer for 2 minutes, then remove the syrup from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature and then stick it in the refrigerator to chill. Once it's cold, strain out the mint leaves and pour it into a Ball jar.
You just have to use a Ball jar - it's a whiskey drink, anything other than a canning jar simply would not be appropriate! Okay, maybe if you're a Southerner you might do this in something other than a Ball jar, but I'm a Northerner, so it's got to be a Ball jar. Put it in the refrigerator and keep it cold.
So now it's right before the race. The jockeys are mounting their horses to bring them to the gates. It's time to make the mint juleps. I've got the Maker's Mark whiskey, my mint simple syrup, fresh peppermint (washed), and a blender of crushed ice that I poured in 2 jiggers of whiskey and 3 tablespoons of syrup just to get it going.
Pick out a sprig of mint - use the short ones for this, save the tall ones for garnish.
Rip off the leaves and toss them into your glass. We're using these cute little red tumblers just because they're pretty.
Just a light coating of leaves down at the bottom of the glass - maybe 7 or 8.
Take a spoon and use the back of it to smash up the leaves, smearing them all over the inside of the glass. What you're doing is releasing the oils from the mint and coating the inside of the glass with fresh mint oil.
Add a tablespoon of the mint simple syrup into the glass with the leaves. If you like it sweet, add more syrup later.
Muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup - just keep smashing them into the syrup with the back of a spoon until the syrup turns a little green.
Pour in a goodly amount of the crushed ice/syrup/whiskey mixture on top of the muddled mint. I usually fill the glass up about 3/4 of the way with the ice mixture.
Gently pour a jigger of whiskey on the top of the ice. You want it to float on the ice, not mixing it in.
Garnish with a tall sprig of peppermint and serve it up.
And there you have it. Mint Julep for Derby Day. Delicious! Just make sure you have a designated driver before you taste it, because these are strong drinks - and the simple syrup has a tendency to disguise that.
Enjoy! (I think I'll have another...)