It's Derby Day! I really should have posted this yesterday to give you time to prepare, but you still have about 6 hours so get cracking!
Like a martini, people make mint juleps in many different ways (thinking that all others are wrong). The basics of the drink are the same no matter who is making it: bourbon, mint, sugar, and shaved or cracked ice. Mint juleps are traditionally served in a frosted julep cup, made of silver. An old-fashioned or Collins glass will do. I'm not much of a traditionalist when it comes to glasses. I drink red wine out of an double old fashioned glass and margaritas out of a pilsner.
There are three schools of debate regarding the mint: muddlers, steepers, and garnishers. Muddlers crush the mint with whole sugar, like in a mojito. Steepers let the mint steep in simple sugar, and let it sit overnight. Finally, garnishers just add a sprig or two as garnish for the drink.
I fall under the "steeper" category, voting to let my mint leaves sit in some simple syrup for at least a few hours before preparing the drink. Some call this solution "minted sugar". To make it just add some mint to the simple syrup and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. Pull it out when you're ready to drink.
2 oz Maker's Mark® bourbon whiskey
1/2 oz minted sugar
Shaved or crushed ice
a few sprigs of mint
Toss a couple mint leaves in the bottom of a double old fashioned or highball glass and fill it with shaved ice. Pour the bourbon and then minted sugar over the ice. Stir and refill with ice. Garnish with a healthy amount of mint. Serve with a sipping straw.
Or you could use Henry Watterson's recipe (he is the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal). "Pluck the mint gently from its bed, just as the dew of the evening is about to form upon it ... Prepare the simple syrup and measure out a half-tumbler of whiskey." Pour the whiskey into a well-frosted silver cup, throw the other ingredients away and drink the whiskey."
I like his style. Enjoy and have a happy derby day!