By Nicole Bayne
How can you go wrong with mint, sugar, ice and bourbon?
Jackson 20‘s Kaine Gish helps those attending the International Gold Cup with how to pull together a mint julep, from prepping beforehand to crushing ice a la minute.
“You can bring your drink to a whole other level,” says Gish, if you can crush your ice right before making the drink. Crushed ice gives the julep an adult-snow-cone feel. Bring the ice in a cooler and have a towel to use for crushing.
If you are tailgating, don’t bother with muddling the mint. This would originally be done per drink for maximum flavor, but Gish says preparing simple syrup beforehand is less time consuming and little mess.
“I prefer simple syrups. No extra mint pieces in your drink, and the stuff won’t get stuck in your teeth,” he says. He recommends spearmint because it has a great flavor and is most readily available at supermarkets. Look for a bright green color in the mint, not dark or black. The sugar is up to your tastes, but finer sugars are easier to mix.
For the syrup, Gish likes mixing equal parts sugar and water and adding mint until there is a green tint to the concoction. Bring this to a boil. The longer you boil, the more mint flavor your syrup will have. Strain well to keep the mix clean and free of particles. You can store this in the fridge in a Mason jar for a couple of weeks.
When deciding which bourbon to use for your mint julep, Gish says stay away from spicy rye whiskeys and stick to sweeter wheat bourbons. He says Maker’s Mark is a solid choice, but if you’re looking for more top-shelf quality, try Bulleit Bourbon, Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve. Jim Beam is a more affordable option that also works very well.
Carefully consider your options for glassware, because the International Gold Cup 2014 will have a strict no-glass policy for tailgating and violators will be fined. Gish says GoVino’s recyclable, reusable, plastic, stem-less wine glasses are the right size. Find GoVino at: Collectable Treasures, 11945 Grand Commons Ave, Fairfax; Merrifield Garden Center, 6895 Willington Rd, Manassas; Serendipity, 125 Mill Street, Occoquan
You can also find stainless steel julep cups at Crate and Barrel at: Tysons Corner, 1800 W. International Drive, McLean; The Market Common, 2800 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; Alexandria Outlet, 1700 Prince Street, Alexandria
Following a classic mint julep recipe sans muddling, pour 3 ounces of Makers Mark and ¾ of an ounce of simple syrup all over crushed ice. No stirring or shaking needed, just garnish with a mint sprig.
“Put a whole mint sprig in your drink, a big sprig, so you get the aroma in your nose,” says Gish. “You want the aromatics when you go to take a drink.”
For a twist, Gish says stay away from fruits and think chocolate. You can buy chocolate mint, but it’s pretty hard to find, so experiment with Cacao Nibs. Mix them in your simple syrup, or crush them up and use them as a garnish. Gish, however, likes to work with the basics.
“Sure it’s fun, you can always add your own twist,” says Gish. “But classic drinks should be rustic, and mint juleps are such a part of the culture of Kentucky and the derby.”
Bring these tailgating necessities to the International Gold Cup on Saturday, October 25. Gates open at 10 a.m.