Forget what my passport says - I am a Kentucky Girl.
Okay, okay. By birth, I claim the South (Nooohth Caralahhhna, to be exact). My rearing happened mostly in the two states from which my parents hail: Minnesota and Ohio. And I was educated in Connecticut.
But my college years - those are claimed by the heart of the Bluegrass.
To say the word brings crinkles to the corners of my blue eyes. In fact, I don't think it's physically possible for me to let that big, beautiful L roll off my tongue without giving rise to a toothy smile. I know so much about that big-town-that-thinks-it's-a-little-city. My life, my memories are ingrained with moments all over that stunning hamlet.
Lexington is my home away from home.
To live any portion of your life in Lexington is to fall in love with horses. Not in a I can't wait to ride 'em way, though more power to you if you're up to squeezing on those rubber riding boots and swinging your right leg over your favorite Bay or Chestnut.
No, people fall in love with horses while wearing their finest linens and Seersucker, clinging to condensation-covered cups filled with Mint Julep.
The cocktail of Kings.
That's an appropriate claim to make, considering horse racing is the Sport of Kings.
My first brush with bourbon wasn't in as genteel environs. It was likely before, during or after a fraternity party on Woodland Avenue, and involved a few hefty swigs right from a bottle of Old Crow. Jim Beam if we were lucky.
I improved with age, and so did my bourbon of choice. I am a Woodford girl, firmly believing it's my obligation to support the distillery closest to Lexington. Others insist on Blanton's, Bulleit or Four Roses.
And though a bottle goes for upwards of $125, I consider myself lucky for having had the pleasure of sipping on Pappy Van Winkle. Neat.
When mixing a Mint Julep, there's no reason to go to such expense, though I do think the potency of the cocktail warrants something smooth.
Saturday marks Derby Day - the day of all days for celebrating with a Mint Julep. I saw my favorite mixologist, the adorable Molly Wellmann, out a couple weeks ago, and asked her to share with me some of the lore about the Mint Julep. Here's what Molly has to say:
"Mint juleps first were seen in print in 1803, but people have been drinking them as far back as the 1700s as a morning drink. In fact, juleps were thought of as medicinal in 1600. Back then they would use rye or rum rather then American bourbon, as those spirits were more abundant in the 1700s. Juleps were also made with Geneva gin during the nineteenth century. The Kentucky Derby adopted the drink in 1938 and the original ones were made with Early Times Kentucky bourbon! They were served in silver souvenir cups for 75 cents! To this day, at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, they will only make mint juleps on Derby Day...
"A julep was described as a 'dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it' and is believed to have gotten its name from the an Arabic drink called a julab which was made from water and rose petals. When the drink was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the rose was replaced with mint."
I've been told any good Julep maker will gently crush the mint leaves and wipe them around the inside of the glass to ensure the cocktail is very aromatic.
Below, you'll find Molly Wellmann's Mint Julep recipe, as well as a couple others she passed on as great cocktails for the Kentucky Derby. Enjoy!
Molly's Mint Julep
6 mint leaves (3 sprigs for garnish)
2 oz Four Roses single barrel bourbon
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 dark rum ( Myer's works or I like to use Zacapa)
Take 6 mint leaves put in mixing glass and lightly muddle or bruise. Add bourbon and simple syrup. Stir to incorporate all ingredients add crushed ice, and top with rum.Garnish with 3 mint sprigs with the bottoms cut off to allow the mint flavor to bleed out of the bottom of the stalks. Cut 2 straws so they are only 3/4" above the mint and place them in the bouquet so you get a whiff of mint with each sip.
As above, but instead of the bourbon, use 2 ounces of nice cognac. After all the muddling, stirring and icing, fill the glass with dry champagne. Decadent and dangerous.
For a lower-octane version for all those people who find bourbon too boozy, you can also make a champagne julep without the brandy — it’s lighter in alcohol, but still incredibly tasty, and has a distinctly festive edge. add some fruit on top ( raspberries , blueberries , pineapple , strawberries , orange) along with the mint
6 Mint leaves( 3 sprigs of mint for garnish)
2-oz. Bullet Bourbon
dash of simple syrup to taste
lemon twist for garnish
Take 6 mint leaves and put them into a glass and lightly muddle or bruise. Add limoncello, simple syrup and Bullet Bourbon. Let sit 1 minute. Stir briefly to incorporate all ingredients. Add crushed ice. Garnish with 3 mint sprigs with the bottoms cut off to allow the mint flavor to bleed out of the bottom of the stalks. Cut 2 straws so they are only 3/4" above the mint and place them into the bouquet so each sip you get a whiff of mint . Add lemon twist.
Molly and fellow mixologist Rom Wells will serving up their own spectacular juleps and dishing on the drink's history this Friday at The Rookwood at from 6 to 8 PM. Click here for more information.
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Ah, how I miss Lexington this time of year...
Just remember, too much of the Derby Day Destruction will lead to a very bad Flying Pig Cheering the following morning!
The Crazy Fox in Newport has Mint Julep specials from 5 to 8 on Saturday. Very strong, very cheap, and made with love and super fresh mint.
Count me in the Blanton's camp, although I'm also very fond of Eagle Rare.
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