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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Best-Ever Mint Juleps for Derby Day

Some things are timeless—the VW Beetle, the little black dress, and a mint julep on Kentucky Derby Day. When I was newly married several decades ago, my mother and her sister decided that no Southern wife, even one living far above the Mason-Dixon line, should be without a set of mint julep cups. Over the next few years, for every birthday, Christmas, and anniversary they each sent me an individual silver beaker until I had a dozen! When the set was complete, I began a quest to find the best recipe for this popular libation.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far since my spouse, raised in the South too, had his own special formula for making Louisiana juleps. His version of this classic drink is my favorite for Derby Day gatherings, held on the first Saturday in May—the 7th this year.  Oh, and if you don’t have a set of julep cups, clear glasses work fine. Just chill them before adding the fresh mint, sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice.

Louisiana Mint Juleps

Special equipment: a mint julep cup or a 10-ounce glass, well chilled; drinking straw, optional

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 fresh mint sprigs
Shaved or crushed ice
3 ounces bourbon

Place the sugar in the bottom of a chilled mint julep cup or glass, and moisten it with just enough water to dissolve the sugar. Rub two of the mint sprigs between your fingers, and  then rub the inside of the cup with the mint. Leave the mint in the bottom of the cup, and pack the cup with crushed ice up to the rim. Fill the cup with bourbon until the liquor is just visible at the top of the cup. Stir and garnish with the remaining mint sprig, and, if desired, with s straw. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

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