The secret to the best mint julep might surprise you

The best mint julep doesn’t necessarily have to come with a huge price tag or a trip to the Kentucky Derby. This secret will have you rediscover the classic cocktail.

What is the secret to the best mint julep? During the annual Kentucky Derby celebration, the classic cocktail, often associated with the Run for the Roses, becomes the must have cocktail. While everyone knows the main ingredients to this libation, a few key tips and tricks could have you rediscover this drink.

The basic ingredients in a mint julep are bourbon, a sweetener, crushed ice, water and fresh mint. Since the cocktail is relatively straightforward, the secret to the best mint julep starts with the ingredients. If you want the best flavors, don’t compromise.

Bourbon

Truthfully, everyone has a preferred bourbon based on her individual flavor preferences. While Woodford Reserve is the official Kentucky Derby bourbon, there are all types of bourbons. From local Kentucky favorites, like Maker’s Mark, to small batch distillers, cocktail fans should explore the various brands.

Each distiller has a different flavor profile. From the particular oak used in the barrel to the corn, each bourbon is unique and distinct.

The bourbon used in a mint julep can change the experience. Experiment with different bourbons to see which distiller appeals to your flavor preferences.

Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep, photo provided by Woodford Reserve

Sweetener

In many mint julep recipes, the classic sweetener is simple syrup. Simple syrup is basically sugar and water. Changing the sweetener in the mint julep recipe will change the overall cocktail experience.

Recently, Woodford Reserve highlighted its Kentucky Sweetener in its $1K Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby. While only a select few will be able to indulge in this particular sweetener, the concept can be applied to the at-home mixologist.

Instead of a simple syrup, consider using honey. Honey can bring out various flavors in the bourbon. The flavor can be more nuanced. Plus, it can play off the mint quite well.

Although not considered, other sweeteners might add a different flavor note. For example, agave might be a nice substitute if you don’t like honey.

Mint

Mint, especially fresh mint, can be quite fragrant. One of the best parts of the mint julep is the aroma that wafts from the class. But, the mint can be delicate and should be handled properly.

When adding mint to the cocktail, consider rubbing the leaves around the glass. While slapping the mint can open the aroma and flavor, it be best not to tear the leaves. Treat the mint with care and the best flavor will come out.

Crushed ice

It might sound silly, but ice matters. Just like clear ice cubes in certain cocktails, crushed ice is better for a mint julep. There is more surface area in crushed ice. The crushed ice melts more slowly, which makes the cocktail more enjoyable.

Straw

While plastic straws should be avoided, the right straw makes a mint julep to be more enjoyable. Actually, the sipping straw was invented for the mint julep.

With a mint julep made from the bottom up, a straw ensures that the cocktail is enjoyed that way. If you sip from the top, the cocktail loses some of its beautiful flavor combinations.

Related Story: Woodford Reserve serves the perfect mint julep for the Kentucky Derby

Do you have a secret to mixing up the best mint julep? Will you be toasting the Kentucky Derby with this cocktail?