Kentucky derby and mint juleps

Today is the Kentucky Derby, and for nearly 100 years, the official drink of the derby has been the Mint Julep, a bourbon and mint drink equal parts smooth and potent. They truly are great, and it’s a great entry drink for many into the wonderful world of bourbon.

A quick glance around the booze blog world shows that just about every site has a write-up, opinions, and their own version of the Mint Julep recipe. Rather than repeat the same thing or offer up a slight variation on what everyone else is already saying, I figured I’d just take a few seconds to point out who’s got it right, and who doesn’t.

First, who’s got it wrong. Thankfully, I could only find one site that had it really, really wrong…and to be honest, I’m not surprised. It’s the guy over at Drinkhacker, the same bozo who came up with the “iphonetini” (a vile concoction with Apple Pucker and Goldschlager and NO VERMOUTH that has no business trying to pass as a martini) and recently gave Herradura Silver, one of the best blanco tequilas out there, a B+. He is indeed a hack, and he screws up the not-easy-to-screw-up mint julep in similar fashion. He starts by posing a bunch of dilemmas that nobody actually considers (granulated sugar vs. simple syrup, muddled mint vs. mint rub), advises using pre-made store-bought mint-infused simple syrup (gross), then goes on to suggest that JACK DANIELS, which is NOT a bourbon, be used in this classic bourbon cocktail. Top all that off with his suggested teaspoon of dark rum, and you’ve got an abomination where a classic cocktail once stood. It’s one thing to put your own “spin” on a drink, but by the time he’s done with this thing the only thing it has in common with a mint julep is crushed ice.

Thankfully, there are people out there who still care if a drink is made properly. If you want to see how to make a mint julep properly, head over to Jeffery Morngenthaler’s site or Imbibe Unfiltered to see how professionals make them. They differ on a few little things (like the number of mint leaves to use) but overall agree on how it’s made. Like I said, once you see how it’s made, you see that it’s not hard to screw up and whether you’re a bourbon fan or not, they’re really great.

So make one this derby day, or make them some other time this summer. If you’ve never had one though, you really should try one.

*UPDATE* Christopher Null of Drinkhacker, which I wrote about above, responded to my remarks about his mint julep article and site. In the interest of goodwill and good booze-bloggery, I am reprinting his email here:
from Christopher Null / Drinkhacker
to [email protected],
cc [email protected],
date Sat, May 3, 2008 at 7:33 PM
subject Julep smackdown, ow

Wow, you got a lot wrong in your slam of my mint julep recipe. I hope you’ll allow me to air my grievances in response.

First I do NOT recommend the mint syrup in a julep, WSJ’s Eric Felten does (please reread the second paragraph).

Don’t believe in a rum float? That’s fine, and it’s certianly optional, but here are 5000 people/recipes who do: Here – Give it a try before you knock it.

As for suggesting JD as a possibility (which, you’ll note again, I didn’t recommend, but said it was OK), the original mint julep wasn’t even made with bourbon at all but with rum or brandy. JD works fine in a Julep, even though I’m far from a fan of the whiskey and didn’t use it in my own (again, as noted).

I won’t debate your opinion on Herradura, but I’ve had better blanco. I like it fine. But to each his own.

And finally, the iphonetini is a complete joke/stunt cocktail devised for the iPhone launch and not something for serious consumption and is a martini only in the sense that it’s in a martini glass. Frankly, anything that has Apple Pucker in it doesn’t deserve vermouth. Seriously. Any fan of “Girl Drink Drunk” ought to know better.

Hope you’ll reconsider your stance on my “hack”ness. I like your site and I hope you’ll consider upgrading the level of discourse a tad. We’re all gentlemen here, right?


And he’s right, we are all gentlemen here, and while we (and most other drink-bloggers) could quibble about the minutiae of mixology all day long, in the end it’s not worth it. Us booze-bloggers need to stick together.
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  1. drinkhacker Said,

    Huzzah. -CN,

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