I love the sound of a mint julep. Sweetened up bourbon and mint? Yum. Plus all that tradition just appeals to the Southern girl in me. According to the Cocktail Times, the mint julep first appeared in print in 1803 as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.” Charming, right? If we all had a “dram” in the morning, we’d probably have more pleasant dispositions.
And, of course the mint julep has been served at every Kentucky Derby since 1938. I live in Maryland, host to Preakness, the second of the Triple Crown stakes, and I have to admit there’s some serious derby cocktail envy going on here. The official drink of Preakness is the slightly sad “Black-Eyed Susan,” which contains pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice and vodka and tastes about as traditional as a bag of Skittles.
The thing about the mint julep in it’s pure and traditional form is that I can’t actually drink one. There’s a reason I don’t drink my bourbon neat and that reason is that I am an unashamed wimp. Call me gutless if you want, but I don’t enjoy drinking bourbon or any other liquor out of the bottle and prefer instead to dilute it with something tastier than liquor. While the mint julep gets a 10 in burst-of-flavor category, it’s still a little too strong.
I can hear ya’ll Kentucky folks whispering that I probably shouldn’t mess with the julep, but I’m stepping out of the traditional box and spritzing it up nineties style, adding some some seltzer water to make it more palatable to us novices of bourbon. And while I’m at it, I thought I’d add some flavor to the simple syrup too.
It’s been a good year for blueberries. They’re so abundant that my CSA has included them in our last four pick ups and is offering them in bulk, by the case. This has left me with the very pleasant task of incorporating blueberries into our weekly menus. You may have noticed last week’s Spicy Cucumber Noodles with Blueberries, or the Gingered Blueberry Shortcake two weeks ago.
If you’re thinking the flavored simple syrup in our modified mint julep is blueberry, you’re right. It’s unbelievably good. The blueberry and mint compliment each other nicely, and the lime seltzer dilutes the bourbon while adding its own bit of bubbly flavor. To make this cocktail, you’ll need to start by making blueberry simple syrup. You’ll end up with enough to make several drinks – store the unused portion in a jar in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ lemon, juice
- 2 Tablespoons blueberry simple syrup
- 4-5 mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 4 ounces lime flavored seltzer water
- Mint for garnish
- Make the syrup. Bring the blueberries, sugar and water to boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the blueberries from the juice with a fine sieve and discard the blueberries. Add the lemon juice to the syrup mixture, transfer to a jar and store any unused portion in the fridge.
- Make the cocktail. Pour 2 Tablespoons of the syrup into the bottom of the glass. Add the mint leaves, and crush the leaves against the side of the glass. Add the ice, follow by the bourbon and the seltzer water. Garnish with mint.