Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Juleps

Tomorrow is the 137th annual Kentucky Derby, and to honor the occasion let's have a julep! Specifically, we'll have a mint julep, the signature drink for the occasion -- but let's learn about the broader julep family while we're at it. The julep is another one of the classic drink categories we've been exploring the past several weeks -- in the case of the julep, everyone has heard of the mint julep, but maybe aren't aware that there are other juleps, too. As always, let's go to school on our repeal-era recipe books to learn more:

First, the basic concept of a julep involves these elements: (1) ideally served in a silver glass (but more on that in a moment), (2) combine some sugar and mint (more on that in a moment, too), (3) pack the glass with shaved or crushed ice on top of the sugar and mint, (4) add your booze of choice (as we see above), and (5) top it off with a generous sprig of mint as an aromatic garnish! Here's another couple of recipes from ye olden times:

We said we'd talk more about that first step, involving the sugar and mint. This step is where some personal preference and style enter the equation. You can simply add the sugar and get it dissolved and move on to the ice; you can muddle the sugar with mint (to make it a little extra minty; but the drawback being that you'll probably get little bits of mint leaves floating around in the drink); you can use powdered sugar, granular sugar, or simple syrup. Gosh, now that we think about it, this is getting complicated .... and it's only the first step! Let's make it simple: we suggest using simple syrup because you won't have to deal with the aggravation of dissolving the sugar (and, by the way, never use powdered sugar in drinks -- it' amateurish); if you like it extra minty, use a mint infused simple syrup. Anyway, let's move on past this confusing first step. Let's look at another recipe:

This is pretty much the traditional mint julep for the Kentucky Derby. Let's talk about the glass. As we've been seeing, the traditional glass for a julep is a silver glass. If you have them, go ahead and use them. But, don't sweat it too much if you don't have them. In fact, maybe breathe a sigh of relief. We've heard someone remark that drinking a julep from a silver glass is like sucking on a mouthful of nickels. Yum. So, feel free to use glass. Here's another julep variation:

And, we'll close with another presentation of the classic mint julep that we'll be enjoying for the big race:


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