Cousin Bill’s Mint Julep
Cousin Bill’s mint julep departs from the traditional Derby elixer, but don’t worry, it still uses the same basic ingredients. What’s different is the way it’s put together and that changes the taste.
It’s been said that the mint julep is the finest cocktail there is, but few people know it. Made properly and that means in a crafted manner, is the right way to enjoy this classic.
The Traditional Method
Muddle a few mint leaves with sugar and spring water in your glass or julep cup. Next add ice, stir briefly then pack the glass with ice and pour over the bourbon. Garnish with a sprig of mint, stick a straw in it and you’re ready to go. This creates a cocktail that changes flavor as you sip and I like the way it keeps your attention. You can find my original recipe HERE.
Cousin Bill’s Method
Bill makes them by the batch, because who can drink just one?
He begins with home-made simple syrup using distilled water. That avoids the chlorine in tap water that contaminates a good drink. Next he infuses bourbon with mint to add a touch of flavor and aroma. Then he mixes the mint infused bourbon with the syrup and bourbon. Finally, he rests the julep mix overnight in the refrigerator to give the flavors time to “marry”. The result is a smooth consistent flavor from first sip to last.
This was a family recipe, but now Maker’s Mark offers it pre-made. You can buy it in their iconic bottle with a green wax top in Derby season. If you prefer to make them yourself, as I do – here’s the recipe.
- 1 liter Maker’s Mark
- 40 spearmint leaves
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup distilled water
- Spearmint sprigs – garnish
- 1/2 tsp powdered sugar per mint julep – garnish
- Completely dissolve the sugar into the distilled water over low heat and set aside to cool
- Line a small bowl with cheesecloth, place the mint leaves on the cloth and pour 3 ounces of bourbon on top
- Submerge the leaves and soak for 15 minutes
- Wring out the bourbon using the cheesecloth back into the bowl, repeat the process two more times and set aside
- Pour 3-1/2 cups of Maker’s Mark into a glass pitcher and add 1 cup of the simple syrup
- Add the mint infused bourbon 1 tablespoon at a time, stir and smell
- Step away and clear your nose, smell again and add another tablespoon IF you want a stronger aroma. This usually takes about three tablespoons, but will vary according to your specific batch of mint. You be the judge of when you like it.
- When it’s just right, like goldilocks says, refill the empty Maker’s bottle and refrigerate 24 hours to give the flavors time to harmonize
- Fill each silver julep cup or glass half full with crushed ice
- Insert a sprig of mint to each cup, pack with more ice until it forms a mound about 1″ over the cup
- Insert a straw cut to an inch over the cup to force your nose near the mint sprig when you take a sip
- Wait for the cup to become frosted and pour the julep mix over the ice
- Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the top
Who is Cousin Bill? Why that’s Bill Samuels, Jr., chairman emeritus of Maker’s Mark Distillery.