A Twist On the Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby

Alex Guarnaschelli, the executive chef of the Midtown NYC restaurant Butter, is no stranger to festive atmospheres—the last incarnation of her restaurant was known as the place to get your party on. So of course it makes sense that when asked to create a cocktail, Guarnaschelli would offer a drink generally consumed at large gatherings—think Kentucky Derby parties—with a recipe that serves eight! She put her own twist on the classic mint julep, spicing it up a bit with citrus and ginger to balance out the flavors, using her chef’s approach toward flavors to enliven a classic cocktail. “I love adding dry ginger to a cocktail syrup because it gives a tiny tingly heat to the overall equation,” she explains. “The mint needs the help from the sugar, lemon, and ginger to keep it fresh, grassy, and light to counter the bourbon. Dial back or dial up the bourbon depending on how strong a drink you want to make.”

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Mint Julep

Serves about 8

Approx. 1 bottle of bourbon

Ginger-mint syrup (see below)

4 sprigs mint, stemmed

2 to 3 limes

Ginger-mint syrup

4 cups cold water 

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup chopped fresh mint 

2 tsp. dry ginger

½ cup fresh lemon juice plus the zest from 1 lemon

Preparation: In a medium pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Add the mint and ginger and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. Stir in the lemon juice and zest. Refrigerate until cool.

To make the juleps: Fill a smallish glass (or a classic julep cup) with crushed ice and muddle in a few mint leaves, mixing them with the ice. Top the ice with a squeeze from one of the limes. Pour about 3½ ounces of the syrup and about 2½ ounces of bourbon over the ice. Add a straw and enjoy. If mixing a bigger batch, follow the ratio of about 2½ ounces of syrup for every 2 to 2½ ounces bourbon for a strong julep. Mix the ice and mint in a bowl along with the bourbon mixture so you can fill a few glasses at once. 

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