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Whiskey Cocktails: The Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Sazerac and Mint Julep

Jack Bettridge
Posted: August 9, 2013

(continued from page 4)

Note: Those who cook their own simple syrup can make this drink a little livelier by muddling tarragon or basil leaves in with the sugar and water.

Mint Julep

We all know that the Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, but don't limit this drink. Its geography covers the entire South (and really we're all south of somewhere). And it's in season whenever mint grows—whether there's a horse race going on or not.

Mint julep cocktail.
What makes this quaff gallop is that it layers bracing aromas, whiskey's bite and soothing sugar all on a bed of ice chips. Originally Juleps raced with any manner of spirit, but Bourbon eventually got the inside track with its corn-based sweetness.

You can make them up North, but be forewarned, Johnny Reb will never approve your results. This contempt has been going on for a long time. When H.L Mencken, from the border state of Maryland, made them with rye instead of Bourbon, columnist Irvin S. Cobb sniffed that the result was like putting "scorpions in a baby's bed."

But Southern folk nevertheless love to share their pride. Kentucky's Henry Clay made Juleps a national panic when he brought them to Washington, D.C., in the 1850s. Faulkner may have used them to fuel his protracted sentences, but most Southerners see fit to limit consumption. At least, that's the musical warning behind the Clovers' hit "One Mint Julep."


One point of contention is the proper sugar source. We think simple syrup (boiled sugar and water) mixes better than granular types.

1 dozen mint leaves
1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces Bourbon or Tennessee whiskey

Place the intended serving vessels in the freezer at least half an hour before post time. Combine half the leaves with the syrup and bitters in a mixing glass. Gently muddle (crushed leaves reveal a bitter side). Add the whiskey, and muddle some more, while stirring. Retrieve the glasses from the freezer. Fill them with crushed ice, and pour the mixture in. Garnish the mouth of the glass with the remaining mint. Serve with napkins.

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