Many years ago I brought home my adorable Aussie-Lab puppy, and we bonded immediately. What didn’t quite click was her farm-given name of Greta. I figured dogs are “man’s best friend” and bourbon is a girl’s best friend, so put the two together, and she became the classic Kentucky Derby cocktail, Julep. (She even has an “M” pattern on her tummy, which makes me think she was always meant to be minty.)
Mint Juleps get a lot of hype come Derby time in May, but the combination merits a longer summertime run, especially when mint is rampant. It’s an icy, refreshing flavor made for grilled pairings, days by the pool, a beachy nightcap, or simply a sipper while watching the fireflies.
The classic mint julep is made by muddling mint and sugar at the bottom of each cocktail glass before adding crushed ice and bourbon. Instead of muddling the mint, I like to make a batch of mint simple syrup with bourbon-barrel maple. It makes for a quick Mint Julep once the syrup is ready and waiting in your fridge.
For you gardeners, green thumbs, and farmers market fans, the simple syrup is a resourceful way to take advantage of mint while there’s a surplus and preserve that fresh flavor into the fall.
CHEATER MINT JULEPS RECIPE
Mint Maple Syrup
3/4 cup water
½ cup maple syrup
A large bunch of fresh mint
Mint Julep (makes 1 drink)
2 ounces bourbon
1/2 oz maple mint syrup, or more, to taste
Fresh mint, to garnish
For the Syrup
Combine the water and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then simmer until combined.
Remove from heat, and add the fresh mint. Cover and set aside to infuse for at least 30 minutes (I often leave mine in the refrigerator overnight for a really minty flavor).
Strain the mint, and transfer the syrup to a glass jar, and store in the refrigerator.
For the Cocktail
Fill a glass with crushed ice, then pour the bourbon and simple syrup over the ice. Top with fresh mint, and enjoy!
RECIPE, STYLING, PHOTOGRAPHY and STORY BY QUELCY KOGEL
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