A mint julep is just about as simple and straightforward of a cocktail as you can find. Bourbon. Sugar. Mint. Lots of ice. It's sweet, strong, ice cold...perfect for sipping in early May for the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.
And while the time and place of the mint julep is tied tightly up with the traditions of Kentucky (bourbon's home, with the traditional silver julep cup is ever-present in Derby promotion), we're not purists here at the Cider Table. If we can tweak something just a little to get local flavor and perhaps some apple in, we're going to give it a shot. In the case of this apple julep, a literal shot (of apple whiskey from Pittsburgh in place of the bourbon). It adds a fruity, rich, and round twist to the refreshingly sweet herbal classic.
Here's what you need:
A dozen mint leaves*
2 teaspoons superfine sugar, more or less
2 ounces Wigle Walkabout Apple Whiskey (or another apple whiskey)
Crushed ice and some water (from the tap or sparkling, your choice)
Here's what you do:
Put 11 mint leaves in the bottom of a rocks glass. Sprinkle in the sugar. Add a little more than the 2 teaspoons if you like a sweet cocktail. With a muddler (or, more likely, a spoon because who has a muddler? Not us...), smash the mint and sugar together till it's fragrant and pretty much a paste. You want the oils from the mint leaves to start dissolving the sugar. Add a splash of water, maybe half an ounce. Just enough to clean up what's left of the sugar. Pack the cup with loads of crushed ice, pour the apple whiskey over top, and stir till it's frosty cold. Throw the last mint leaf on top to garnish.
Kentucky Hot Browns are traditional fare on derby day, but since we're making this more Pittsburgh, you could go with a Turkey Devonshire, which is basically the same thing...turkey, bacon, tomato, creamy cheese sauce served open-faced on thick-cut bread.
*In our last house, against the sage advice of a gardener in the know (Beth's mom), we planted mint in our small garden beds. It took over the world. Now that we have more space to spread out, Mike thinks it smart to plant some mint seeds up on a hill where just weeds grow now. Let's see how this turns out...