Perhaps nothing defines a classic as much as the Mint Julep. First appearing in print in 1803, three years prior to the first defintion of a cocktail, the julep is complex and versatile, yet so simple at its core. While juleps rained supreme in the 18th and early 19th centuries, they soon gave way to the family of drinks known as “smashes”. Faster to prepare and consume, smashes meshed well with the increasing pace of American life.
While early juleps were likely mixed with cognac, the accepted spirit nowadays is bourbon. For the preparation of a proper julep, a few things are needed. Firstly, a traditional silver or pewter julep cup is essential, allowing frost to form on the outside of the cup and keeping the drink icy cold. Secondly, crushed ice is a must. I make my crushed ice by placing it into a canvas lewis bag and crushing it with a mallet. Thirdly, lots of nice fresh mint is needed both as an ingredient and as a very functional garnish.
So let’s begin. A traditional julep is made with just four simple ingredients, Spirit, sugar/syrup, ice, and mint. I switch mine up just a bit and use a sweet liqueur in place of the sugar, which adds a little bit of extra flavor to the drink. We start by gently muddling roughly a dozen mint leaves in the bottom of the cup. The goal here is to gently express the mint oils and coat the glass, not to shred the leaves to a pulp. I usually add the liqueur (Apricot in this case) at this time as I like to get the flavors incorporated. Next we will fill our cup with the crushed ice, and pour in our Bourbon. A quick stir is really all that is needed, just enough to get the cup to start frosting on the exterior. Then we will pile more crushed ice on top to give it that adult snow cone look. Then we will garnish with several large sprigs of mint, the more the better in my opinion, and place our straw nice and close, so that in sipping the beverage your nose is treated to the wonderful aromatics of the mint. And there you have it, a perfect summer sipper for those long hot afternoons. Cheers!
The Mint Julep
2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Orchard Apricot Liqueur