Well, Louisvillians, Derby season is once again upon us, and grocery stores, farmers markets and even backyards all over town are teeming with tons of one quintessential element of our Derby festivities: MINT. You know how you never see fresh sage in the grocery until right around Thanksgiving? Well, the same holds true for mint and the Derby. Just before the first of May, Kentuckiana produce shelves start filling up with bundles and bundles of freshly-snipped mint. Everywhere you turn, the fragrant bunches of saw-tooth leaves and square stems are readily available for the region-wide attempt to make the absolute perfect Mint Julep -the obligatory Derby drink. This coming week, Derby Week, Churchill Downs will make 120,000 Mint Juleps. And even though theirs are terrible and come from a premade mix, yours don’t have to be.
- 1 ½ cups - Confectioner's (powdered) sugar (I use powdered sugar because it dissolves quickly without having to heat it.)
- ½ cup – Water
- Several sprigs - Fresh mint
- Crushed ice
First, in your Derby glass, drop in a few sprigs of fresh mint and muddle it.
Add crushed ice up to almost the top of the glass.
Mix your confectioner’s sugar and water in a separate cup – preferably a measuring cup with a spout for pouring.
Pour your simple syrup in your glass until it is about three-quarters of the way full. (Ice will still be on top)
Top off with bourbon - to taste, but about 2 ounces makes for a fairly strong drink.
And, of course, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
What else, you might wonder, could we do with all of this freshly-plucked mint at our disposal? Here are a few ideas.
Bourbon not your thing? Shame on you. How did you get in this town, anyway? I suppose there are those that might prefer an alternative minty libation, and for you I submit the Mojito. Much like a Mint Julep, it starts with muddling the mint (3 sprigs) in the bottom of your shaker. Add lime wedges (3) and muddle that a bit too. Then add my version of a simple syrup which is confectioner’s sugar and water to avoid graininess and cooking. Add your rum (2 oz.) and pour over your glass of crushed ice. Top with club soda and add a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime for garnish.
- 4 sprigs - Fresh mint
- 4 - Lime wedges
- 5 tbsp. - Confectioner’s sugar
- ½ cup - Water
- Crushed ice to fill glass
- 2 oz. - Light rum
- splash - Club soda
Liven up your ice cream or fresh fruit by simply chopping up some mints leaves and sprinkling them on top. This could work with any flavor, but I think it’s especially nice on vanilla bean ice cream or on melons.
Freeze a few leaves in ice cubes for a refreshing and pretty treat for tea or lemonade.
Add to rice and pasta dishes for an extra zing.