Kentucky Derby: Mint julep recipes from Alton Brown, Rachael Ray and more

mint-julep-kentucky-derby.jpgThe 138th Kentucky Derby is being run Saturday, May 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, which means thousands of people will be on hand to wear big hats, bet on their favorites and of course drink mint juleps.

We've rounded up a few different mint julep recipes from celebrity chefs Alton Brown, Rachael Ray and Sara Moulton (whose recipe comes courtesy of Bill Samuels, president of Maker's Mark). The recipes range from very simple to a fairly complex one from Mr. Samuels, which we are dying to try. Also check out Rachael Ray's mint julep melon bites recipe at the bottom.

Really the key is two-fold - good bourbon and mint. And don't just go with any old whiskey that you grab off the shelf. Spring for some true Kentucky bourbon. We're partial to Buffalo Trace for the more inexpensive ones, Pappy Van Winkle 15 if we're feeling saucy.

Alton Brown's recipe:

Ingredients


    10 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
    1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
    Seltzer water
    Crushed ice
    2 1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Directions

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and top with the sugar. Muddle these together until the leaves begin to break down. Add a splash of seltzer water, fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice, and add the bourbon. Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.


Rachael Ray's recipe:

Ingredients


    1 teaspoon confectioners sugar
    5 fresh mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig for garnish
    1/2 cup bourbon (4 ounces)
    Crushed ice

Directions

Muddle sugar, mint leaves and a splash of bourbon in your glass until a paste forms, then add ice and bourbon and garnish with a sprig of mint.


Sara Moulton's recipe (Bill Samuels):

Ingredients


    4 cups bourbon
    2 bunches fresh spearmint
    1 cup distilled water
    1 cup granulated sugar
    Powdered sugar

Directions


To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it's right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to "marry" the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.


Rachael Ray's mint julep melon bites:

Ingredients


    2 cups sugar
    1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves and tender stems, plus whole sprigs for garnish
    1/2 cup bourbon
    2 cantaloupes peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
    Juice of 1 lemon

Directions


In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water and the sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup mint leaves and the bourbon. Cover and let steep for 1 hour.
   
Place the cantaloupes in a serving bowl. Strain the syrup over the melon; stir in the lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Top with mint sprigs.

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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