You read that right, the Breakfast Julep. Yes, I’m repeating the flavors from my Wakey Wakey Breakfast Old Fashioned for the first Quarantine Julep of the series. It’s been the cocktail that I’ve had the most messages and emails about from those who have tried it. On a normal Derby or Oaks Day, you might wait until you get to the track for your first julep, but this year, with the first Saturday of May quiet at the track and all of us stuck mourning the Derby, I might have to start the morning with a cocktail while I’m baking my Derby Pie, sorry – Triple Crown Pie.
This week we’re doing juleps as April is mint julep month, and we would normally be planning what juleps to go with our menus for Derby parties.
So let’s talk juleps! Juleps have a long and storied history, and it’s said that juleps were behind the invention of the paper straw – just so you’d have an excuse to take a sip of your cocktail while burying your nose in a fresh sprig of mint. A julep has just a few elements, sugar, whiskey and mint and lots of ice. Of course, around this time of year, near Derby, we’re usually talking about Kentucky bourbon for our juleps, but as with any cocktail, you can often find some lovely flavor combinations by swapping out the base spirit. We’ll do that a little later in the week, but for this one, we’ll stick with a bourbon or rye. For more on the perfect Mint Julep, see my article How to make a Classic Mint Julep.
Juleps are generally built in a julep cup, a metal cup made specifically for the cocktail, usually pewter or silver. The metal gets frosty cold and stays that way as soon as you add the ice, keeping that cocktail cold for every sip through the straw. I may take some pictures of juleps in glasses just so you can see the colors, but if I’ve got one on my hand to sip, you can bet it’s in a silver or pewter julep cup. Some people prefer to use a sugar cube to build the julep, and others, like me, prefer to use simple syrup to give the drink a little more consistency as it’s sipped.
Now juleps might originally have been created as a remedy for upset stomachs, and mint can go a long way toward soothing a tummy, but the history goes back further to an ancient Arabic drink called a julab made of water and rose petals. Its American fascination was first recorded in the early 1800s and it’s said that Henry Clay took it to Washington in the 1850s where it became a popular drink associated with the South – and Virginians in particular.
Juleps usually refer to mint juleps, and there are many ways the mint can be integrated into the cocktail. Some purists simply take a mint leaf and rub it over the inside of the glass and the rim to give the mint essence to the cocktail. Others steep mint in the simple syrup and or put a few mint leaves in the bottom of the julep cup with some sugar for muddling.
Like many Southern traditions, you can get into a huge debate within a group of friends or family on the proper way to prepare a mint julep or even the proper whiskey for it. I’ll let you all debate and just tell you how I build mine.
When I build a classic julep in the glass, I put ½ oz simple syrup and a handful of mint leaves in the bottom of the julep class, give it a quick muddle, add the bourbon and give it a quick stir then fill with ice. I spank the mint for the garnish against the back of my hand, then place it in the cup with the straw peeking up through the garnish so your nose is tickled by the mint as you sip.
For this julep, I’m going to give us some coffee flavors with a coffee liqueur, a little maple syrup to sweeten it, and of course a bit of bourbon and mint to bring it all together. It’s as if you’ve just had a lovely stack of pancakes with a bit of mint whipped cream on top with a lovely cup of coffee enhanced with a strong shot of bourbon.
Perfect way to kick off your morning. Am I right? Enjoy!
- ½ oz coffee liqueur
- ½ oz maple syrup
- 1/4 oz orange liqueur
- 5 mint leaves
- 2 oz bourbon
- Garnish: mint sprig
- Rub one of the mint leaves on the inside of the julep cup and the rim of the glass julep cup. Add the coffee liqueur, orange liqueur, the mint leaves and the syrup. Muddle lightly, then add the bourbon and give everything a quick swirl. Fill the cup with cracked ice and clear a small hole for the mint sprig garnish and straw. Spank the mint sprig against the back of your hand a few times to release the mint aroma and place the mint and straw right next to each other in the julep cup. If you’ve got a little bacon to throw in there, too, have at it!