How to Make The Perfect Derby Day Julep

[Photographs: Meredith Smith]

It's almost Derby Day, which means you should probably have a mint julep in your hand. Adam Bereitenstein of Mozz in Louisville, Kentucky recently welcomed us into his family home to show us how to make the ultimate version.

As Out of Kentucky Kitchens author Marion Flexner admonishes, these race day refreshments aren't as innocent as they seem.

This appears to be a most innocuous concoction, but it has a potent kick, as anyone who has tasted it for the first time can testify. It should be sipped slowly and not tossed off at a gulp!

Simple in its components, the mint julep's complexities are in the details.

Adam suggests using a high proof bourbon, as close to 100 proof as you can get, so that the spirits don't become overly diluted as the ice melts. His preferred julep (and anytime) bourbon is Johnny Drum.

In the great mint muddle debate, this native Kentucky bartender is anti-muddling. "The way I learned, you shouldn't beat something up, especially mint."

And when it comes to mint garnish, you can never have too much. Gently smacking the mint inside the wrist helps to release the oils, so that a properly positioned straw will "get some mint on the nose" as you sip. In the Jerry Thomas tradition, Adam ornaments his juleps with berries and powdered sugar.

What You'll Need:

  • Julep cup (optional but fun)
  • Ice
  • Cocktail shaker and strainer
  • 2.5 ounces Kentucky straight bourbon
  • 1 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
  • 12 mint leaves
  • For garnish: sprigs of mint, berries, powdered sugar

Learn how to make it in the slideshow »

Too lazy to make it by hand? Will Gordon says this premixed bottled julep is better than you'd expect.