It’s hot. Really hot. August is here with its sticky days, warm nights, and oppressive heat. Unless you are sitting on a beach, relief is hard to find which is why I’ve fallen in love with mint juleps this summer. The perfect summer cocktail, mint juleps, in their metal cups that frost up even better than an iced-beer mug, are a reprieve from the heat in the classiest of ways.
If, unlike me,you have a green thumb, you may have mint in your yard. If you do, and it hasn’t been contained in a pot, then it is most surely running rampant in your garden. Sprawling and overgrown at this time of year, most people have a surplus of mint. And what better reward for dealing with the herb and its ever expanding nature than to serve it up in a refreshing beverage.
This recipe for mint juleps, adapted from Frank Stitt’s beautiful cookbook Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, takes the mint julep to awesome heights through one simple trick: infusing the simple syrup with mint. It’s as simple as it sounds. Once you’ve made your simple syrup, simply add a handful of mint leaves to it and let it infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the mint leaves and you’ll be left with a wonderfully minty, in smell and in taste, simple syrup.
Frank Stitt suggests combining all the ingredients, including the crushed ice, in a cocktail shaker and muddling everything together. This is a nice technique as the chopped ice helps bruise the mint and release its scent. However, my husband prefers to fill the julep cup all the way to the brim with ice and then muddle the bourbon, mint syrup, and mint leaves together in a cocktail shaker before pouring them over the ice. This works equally as well, but you need to make sure to really crush the mint leaves with your muddler to get maximum flavor.
Regardless of how you prepare your cocktail, you’ll be glad to have the simple syrup on hand in your refrigerator. Crucial to mint juleps, it will also give traditional iced tea a refreshing kick. Cheers!
Refreshing Mint Julep
Makes 1 cocktail
Adapted from Frank Stitt’s recipe for mint juleps in his book, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill.
1 cup crushed ice
3 ounces bourbon, preferably Maker’s Mark
1 1/2 ounces mint-infused simple syrup (See recipe following this recipe)
6-8 mint leaves
Mint sprig, to garnish
Fill mint julep cup, or tall glass, with crushed ice to the rim. In a cocktail shaker, combine bourbon, simple syrup, and mint leaves. Muddle being sure to break up the mint. Pour bourbon mixture over ice. Garnish with mint sprig and serve.
Mint-infused simple syrup:
1 part water
1 part granulated sugar
Mint leaves, to taste
In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to the boil. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and pour syrup over mint leaves. Infuse for 20 minutes. Strain and discard mint and store syrup in the refrigerator.