Although I'm a proud North Carolinian, born and raised, there's a special place in my heart for Kentucky. My dad's side of the family all grew up in the Bluegrass State, my grandfather on a farm in Bardstown, now arguably the bourbon capital of the world. My grandmother lived in a small town called Harlan and met my grandfather while in college. That's them in the black and white photo!
With their proud Kentucky roots, I grew up with a reverence for the Triple Crown horse races, most notably the Kentucky Derby. My grandparents were great entertainers, known for their Christmas Eve parties and Derby get-togethers. I remember seeing the beautiful silver cups come out, gathering on the back porch, and excitedly watching the horses promenade to the starting gate.
Now that we're living back in Asheville, Mike and I have taken up the mantle of Derby party throwers, something we look forward to every year. Thanks to my very generous girlfriends, I now have my very own monogrammed silver cups in which to serve what I've found to be the BEST mint julep recipe of all time. I feel like a bona fide southern belle every time I take them out!
This is hands down the most delicious mint julep you will ever have, and the secret is in the simple syrup. By infusing it with mint, you get a stronger mint flavor that helps cut the bite of the bourbon. It's actually so good at disguising the bourbon flavor this drink will sneak up on you so be warned! Or just go with it and enjoy the ride :) I like to present my mint juleps with a decorative straw and a single red rose bud in honor of the rose Derby wreath the winning horse wears.
Mint (for use in the simple syrup and for garnish)
Red Roses (optional)
Paper Straws (optional)
Make your simple syrup by combining 1 cup water with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup fresh mint leaves. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let the syrup sit for 20-30 minutes.
*Double or triple your recipe if you're serving a larger crowd or plan to serve another round
Strain the syrup through a sieve to separate the syrup from the mint leaves. Discard leaves.
Fill your cups with crushed ice and make your mint julep with these proportions: three parts bourbon to one part simple syrup.
Garnish the mint juleps with a mint spring, decorative straw, and a single red rose bud.
That's it! As long as you remember to make your simple syrup ahead of time since it needs to sit for half an hour, the rest is very easy. They're very quick to make so refilling your guests cups will be a cinch -- and trust me, they will want seconds!