Mixing up a classic mint julep is perfect for the Kentucky Derby, but we couldn’t help but put a twist on it for spring this year with this Strawberry Maple Mint Julep!
Here is the thing about making cocktails. There really isn’t a right or a wrong way to do it in my opinion. Sure, you can find a snobby bartender who will disagree with me but for the average home bar, you can pretty much feel free to mix alcohol with a sweetener and some herbs and fruit and voila! you have a cocktail. The important thing to do is to start with good whiskey (in this case we are going with a nice bourbon), and a liquid sweetener.
You can use sugar if you must, but most recipes call for making a simple syrup so you don’t end up with undissolved sugar in your cup. Don’t get me wrong, you are welcome to stand over the stove and make a simple syrup if you like, it truly is easy and if you are infusing it with something awesome it is totally worth it. But on most days I reach for one of two things… maple syrup or a good quality jam. I know it might sound a little strange, but jam totally works in a cocktail and makes it to where you can whip up a cocktail even without fresh fruit on hand! Today we are going to stick with maple syrup. It pairs perfectly with the bourbon and keeps this so simple. Let’s jump in.
First off, the issue I know you have been up all night thinking about…crushed ice. I tried a bunch of different ideas on how to get the best crushed ice and the conclusion I came to is this: buy or make normal ice, wrap it up in a kitchen towel, bang it with your heaviest pot possible until it is crushed into billions of tiny pieces. Avoid hitting your hand in this process by using a large square tea towel instead of a small kitchen towel. This is the voice of experience talking here.
Now that we have ice. Let’s make cocktails.
History tip: To truly follow the cocktail etiquette on this drink and get the best flavor, we would actually do all the following steps without the ice and then chill the shaker for several hours. Then at serving time, add ice, muddle again, add soda and serve. Most people in modern times though do not utilize this practice and simply serve immediately. But if you are looking to get the most flavor and have the time, give it a try!
Start with ice and mint leaves. Be sure the remove any stems for they will cause the drink to be too bitter. Excuse the fact that my leaves are microscopic, yours should likely be larger than this but my little baby mint plant is still just getting going here for spring and I couldn’t resist using it.
Add a double shot of whiskey. Then the maple syrup.
And finally some fresh strawberries.
Give that a good muddle but not too aggressive. We want to bruise the mint leaves not crush them. It is a fine line, but if you are too aggressive you will release bitter notes from the mint which is undesirable.
Add a bit of cold club soda. It really needs to be super cold so that you don’t end up with a diluted drink.
And that’s it! So simple.
At this point, you can taste test and adjust to what you love. A bit more whiskey, a bit more sweet, pop in an entire stem full of mint in your cup so you can bury your nose in it while you sip, or maybe you want more soda so it doesn’t slap you upside the head in 5 minutes. All viable options. Happy mixing!
- Crushed ice
- 10 mint leaves plus stems to garnish
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ¼ ounces maple syrup
- 2 sliced strawberries
- ½ cup club soda
- Muddle everything together except soda. Taste and adjust if desired. Add soda. Pour over ice and serve immediately.
- To truly follow the cocktail etiquette on this drink and get the best flavor combine all ingredients except ice and soda in the shaker and chill for several hours. Then at serving time add ice, muddle again, add soda and serve.
- Notes: This makes a quite strong and sweet cocktail. You can scale back the bourbon or maple syrup if you prefer a milder drink or increase the soda volume.