Do you know what Saturday is? Why, it’s Kentucky Derby Day, of course! It’s time for the fellas to put on their linen suits and pastel shirts, and ladies, get out your sun-dresses and big hats. If you’re one of the select few lazing away your day at Churchill Downs while you wait for the horses to whiz by, you’ll probably be paying someone else for your mint juleps and Derby pie. If, however, you’ll be watching the race from home, or at a Derby party, you might need to make that julep yourself! This recipe for Chocolate Mint Julep will be the perfect addition to your Derby Day.
Traditionally, a mint julep is made with spearmint, bourbon, simple syrup, and crushed ice, all mixed together into a glass of cool deliciousness. For this version, I used chocolate mint instead of spearmint. If you’ve never had chocolate mint, it’s a lot like regular mint, but about a thousand times more awesome. It looks a lot like regular mint, but basically tastes like you’re eating one of those candy chocolate peppermint patties. In short, it’s the best. I haven’t seen this mint at a normal supermarket, but the Kentucky Derby just happens to coincide with the beginning of planting season here in Appalachia, and these little mint plants are all over the place. I’ve seen these plants everywhere I’ve looked for herbs (specifically at Lowe’s and Home Depot), and I just couldn’t resist planting my own this year.* You can, of course, follow this recipe to make a traditional mint julep by using spearmint instead of chocolate mint. Chocolate mint tends to have smaller leaves, so for this cocktail I use 8-10 mint leaves per glass instead of the 5-6 you’d use for a traditional julep.
To make your julep, start by making a simple syrup (or just buy pre-made syrup). You’ll only need about 1 tsp of syrup for your drink, but it’s easier to make a batch of the syrup and keep the rest for later. Using a 1 to 1 ratio (example: 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar), pour sugar and water together, bring to a boil, and set aside to cool. You can use any leftover syrup to sweeten whatever you like– iced tea, coffee etc. Next, take mint leaves and muddle them with 1 teaspoon of the syrup in the bottom of a chilled old-fashioned cocktail glass (or a mint julep cup if you’re fancy). Technically you should use a “muddler,” but you can also muddle your leaves with the end of a wooden spoon or the pestle from a small mortar and pestle. You just need to mush them around to release the mint oil. Add crushed ice all the way to the top of the glass (if you don’t have a refrigerator that comes with an ice crusher- just stick some ice cubes in your blender). Pour 4 ounces of bourbon over the ice, and stir a few times. Garnish your drink with a few more mint leaves, and enjoy the race!
Note: Any kind of mint will grow well.. pretty much anywhere you put it. Keep in mind that mint doesn’t share well with others- it’ll strangle out your other herbs, so it needs a pot of its own. If you plant it in your yard, be prepared for it to take over the grass, so plant with care.
Chocolate Mint Julep
Yields 1 cocktail
- 1 cup sugar
Chocolate Mint Julep:
- 8-10 chocolate mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 2 oz bourbon
- crushed ice
Make simple syrup: In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool. Use 1 tsp per mint julep cocktail.
Chill an old-fashioned cocktail glass (or mint julep cup). Muddle mint leaves and simple syrup until mint leaves look softened and smell very fragrant. Fill glass with crushed ice, then pour bourbon over ice. Stir once or twice, top with more mint, and serve immediately.