Arguably the Most Important Part of any Derby Party

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Those that know me well know what I’m doing every year on the first Saturday in May.  It is by far my favorite day of the year.  KENTUCKY DERBY DAY!  I’ve hosted a Derby party for the last 8 years. The night before the big race you’ll find me in the kitchen making homemade mint extract and adding it ever so carefully to my batches of mint juleps while the entire kitchen smells of chocolate, bourbon, and pecan pie amazingness as three or four of what you can consider my version of the famous “derby pies” can be found baking in the oven.  Oh geez, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Bill Samuels’ Special Mint Julep (borrowed from the book called How to Throw a Great Derby Party by Sue Wylie)

The ingredients:
1 liter Maker’s Mark Bourbon (90-proof bourbon whisky)
fresh mint
1 cup water, preferably distilled
1 cup granulated sugar
garnish with mint sprigs and powdered sugar (optional)

How to make it:

1. To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves from their stems, then wash and place them in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Maker’s Mark and allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Set aside.

2. To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of water in a cooking pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

3. To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3 ½ cups of Maker’s Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker’s Mark.

4. Begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste – generally about 3 tablespoons.

5. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to marry the flavors.

6. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) half-full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

7. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice and serve.

Written by: Tayler Cabalka