I'm pretty darned sure that I can make a better mint julep than the one served to me at the venerable Churchill Downs. My julep actually tastes like it has liquor in it. The ones that they sell for eleven dollars are not just poorly made, but they really don't do this memorable drink any justice.
Maybe they just don't know how to make one?
What they do down here in Kentucky is a quick and dirty method of making a cocktail. And they charge both your arms and your legs for the pleasure of drinking one.
The commemorative glass on the other hand is a keeper!
All around me, people were saying their cocktails were the "best ever" I am sure to say that I may be in Kentucky, home of the mint julep and Bourbon Whiskey, but these drinks don't do the cocktail any good.
And that's too bad, because in the end- I paid too much for what was just mint simple syrup and ice. Was there Bourbon in there? I don't think so.
If it was a mint julep then what I make at home in New Jersey must be another cocktail entirely!
Sure you will say- you cannot get a decent drink at the track. That mix that they use is mostly sugar syrup and a scant drop of liquor. But this is really too bad.
I'll tell you straight out. My drink was not even worth the glass that it came in.
The recipe for a mint julep is very simple. First of all the Bourbon. You should try, if at all possible to use something at least 100 proof. If it is Bottled in Bond, all the better.
What does bottled in bond mean? Bottled in Bond means that the quality of the liquor is guaranteed to be of the highest quality vested by the power and honor of the United States Government.
Bottled in Bond has an IRS Tax Stamp on the neck of the bottle. That means the liquor within is of the highest purity!
I'm not quite sure if there was any liquor in my eleven dollar drink.
The gal who made it had a nice smile and she asked me to come back and she'd make me another. I don't think so. I could buy an entire bottle of Early Times for what one of these little drinks cost, and I'd at least gotten a buzz on.
Did I fly all the way down to Louisville for a lousy cocktail? Hmmm. It looks that way right now.
Tonight I'm supposed to go to the ball known as the Julep. Maybe I can get a fine cocktail there?
I certainly hope so. Because the Juleps served at Churchill Downs are the most disappointing drinks I've ever put to my lips.
I'm sure you will say that if I wanted to complain about the drinks, I should have stayed home?
But then I'd miss all those fabulous hats!
Reporting from Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, yours truly, Warren Bobrow
Recipe for a fine mint julep that WILL erase your mind!
2 shots of "Bottled in Bond" 100 Proof Bourbon
(I like using the 90 Proof Four Roses Small Batch for my mint juleps)
Fresh mint sprigs well cleaned and picked over for brown spots
Raw Cane Sugar
(Simple syrup just doesn't work here, because this drink takes time to prepare!)
Use a Sterling Silver (Copper Core) Julep Cup if possible
Muddle the mint with some sugar (just a bit) with crushed ice and a couple slugs of the Bourbon
Continue muddling the mint and the sugar, adding a bit of ice and some more Bourbon as you go.
When the drink is almost complete, the cup will be well frosted over- only use a wooden muddler for this cocktail- metal makes the drink taste "off" so don't use metal!
Finish the cocktail by pouring some more Bourbon right over the top of the ice like a slushy.
Put a nice sprig of mint in the top and sip slowly... The sun is strong down here, you don't want to fall over after drinking a couple.
(Hunter Thompson was right!)