Let’s get this out of the way: There’s no Mint Julep recipe on earth that isn’t going to upset someone. Unlike, say, a classic Vesper martini or a New York Flip, there’s no ironclad “authentic” Mint Julep technique, despite how many people assert their version is the real deal.
Some insist that a small forest of heavily muddled mint float in the drink, while others claim that the mug should just be rubbed with mint leaves, which should then be discarded. There’s also a camp that demands powdered or granulated sugar be used, while some believe simple syrup works just as well.
About the only thing that everyone can agree on is to never, ever make a julep like this.
After trying countless variations and techniques over the years, my perfect Mint Julep involves six rules:
- Bourbon, sugar, mint and ice should be the only ingredients.
- The mint should never float or be muddled (if any gets stuck in your straw or your teeth, you’re doing it wrong).
- The ice must be crushed almost to the consistency of a snow cone.
- Don’t skimp on the garnish. As wine drinkers know, a large part what we taste comes from our sense of smell. A powerful whiff of mint every time you take a sip is as important as what you put in the drink itself.
- Invest in a proper set of metal julep cups. The layer of frost that forms from the ice is part of what makes drinking Bourbon on a hot day so enjoyable.
- A metal straw, while not actually necessary, will make you feel much fancier.
- 8–10 mint leaves
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces Bourbon
- 4–5 mint sprigs (for garnish)
Place loose mint leaves on the bottom of a metal julep cup. Add simple syrup. With a muddler or the flat back of a bar spoon, lightly press on the mint leaves to release their oils without tearing or shredding them. Add Bourbon.
Add crushed ice to the julep cup, packing it down until a small mound forms above the rim. If crushed ice isn’t available, pulse ice cubes in a blender or food processor until reaching the desired consistency. Garnish with mint sprigs.