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May 20/13

How to Make the Perfect Mint Julep Posted by: David Burnette | 0 Comments

It is no secret that New Orleans gets extremely hot and humid during the middle of the summer. It’s also no secret that mint juleps are generally associated with spring in Kentucky, not July in New Orleans. However, it was in a kitchen tucked away in the back of the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, that I was served, quite possibly, the most refreshing, perfectly executed julep I’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping.

Tales of the Cocktail is a fantastic event for mixed drink lovers. Thousands of industry professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world gather to compare notes, taste new products, and celebrate traditions that make cocktails more than a means to a buzz, but a reflection on modern society. During the sultry summer of 2011, I was honored to serve in the Cocktail Apprentice Program offered through Tales of the Cocktail, where I had the great fortune of working along side many of the most talented minds in my industry. As the week came to a close, we all gathered in a small pastry kitchen to be surprised by our mentors lined up to each supply us with a perfectly crafted cocktail.

Mike Ryan, bar manager and head bartender of Sable Kitchen and Bar in Chicago, held the initial place in line. He pounded ice in a cloth bag (called a “Lewis Bag”) to a perfect crushed, but dry texture. He stirred together tamped mint and demerara sugar syrup and Buffalo Trace Bourbon in perfect proportions, he strained the mint out of the cocktail over the crushed ice into a metal julep cup (in this case, the top of a metal cocktail shaker), and he topped the concoction with a giant sprig of mint.

Never before had I experienced a cocktail with such simplistic ingredients transcend all expectations of flavor due to perfect execution. I can still remember how my brain reacted to the cool, refreshing, quaffable cocktail. The mugginess of the Crescent City summer weather disappeared. That perfect combination of flavors seared itself into my brain.

Right then that I realized that I would be drinking mint juleps long after the horses stopped circling the tracks in Kentucky. I would be reaching for my julep cups deep into the hazy Arkansas dog days of summer. I would be pounding ice with a hammer until the last of the mint was dried and gone for the season, all for the love of a good Julep.


Mint Julep
2 ounces Bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace)
1 ounce Demerara sugar simple syrup (1:1 ratio Demerara sugar:water)*
6-8 mint leaves
A huge sprig of mint
Cube ice for stirring
Crushed ice
Julep cup (metal cup of some sort will do)

Directions:

Toss the 6 to 8 mint leaves in a mixing glass. Gently tamp them with a muddler to release their oils. Add 1 ounce Demerara syrup and 2 ounces bourbon. Add cube ice and stir 20 times in each direction. Fine strain over crushed ice into your julep cup. Garnish with a huge sprig of mint that you have gently rolled in your hands.

Enjoy.

*If you can’t find Demerara sugar, substitute turbinado sugar AKA “Sugar in the Raw.”


David Burnette, currently working as a mixologist at the Capital Hotel and Natchez Restaurant in Little Rock, Ark., oddly enough grew up in a very dry county in north Arkansas. He discovered his passion for cocktail creation in 2003, and has since had recipes published in several notable publications.


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