Mint Juleps are always associated with the Kentucky Derby in this part of the country, and although the Derby happened over a week ago, this beverage is a refreshing drink that can be enjoyed throughout the summer. I had had mint juleps before, but had never made them at home. This year, though, we had family from Wisconsin and California in town to celebrate my son's first birthday, so we had an impromptu Derby party. My mother-in-law made us hats out of construction paper, and I made us drinks. We all chose a horse to back and cheered them on with our homemade hats and drinks in hand.
We used Maker's Mark for our juleps. You can use any good-quality bourbon...just make sure to save the really good stuff to drink straight up. :-) I've seen lots of different versions, some of which include muddling the mint in the bottom of the glass and some of which just involved throwing some leaves in the glass, but I liked this one because the mint is infused in the simple syrup. The perk to this is that you can use any leftovers in iced tea or other drinks...or just save it for your next Mint Julep. ;-)
Minted Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bunch mint (about 40 leaves)
Scant ounce of minted simple syrup
2 cups crushed ice
2 ounces bourbon
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat slightly and simmer for about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add the mint. Let steep for about 15 minutes. Strain and refrigerate for about 3 hours or up to a week, covered.
In a bourbon glass or a silver mint julep cup, add a little less than an ounce of minted simple syrup. Add about 1 cup of ice, bourbon and a splash of water. Add enough ice to almost fill the glass. Stir well and garnish with mint.
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