Some author, I believe it’s Wodehouse, reports that the mint julep is like a baby sister who steals her little hand in yours, and the next thing you know, the judge is telling you to pay five pounds to the bailiff. (That’s an approximate quote.) Sounds like Wodehouse, doesn’t it?
This staple of genteel Southern living has only four ingredients, counting the ice. This version uses a blender, but you’re smart; I leave it up to you to figure out a way around “no blender.”
It helps if you grow mint in your yard. The best mint is the kind with a sharp flavor—peppermint of some kind. Spearmint is a no-no—your julep will taste like toothpaste. Wintergreen is just lame. And no, lemon balm is not mint—now the julep tastes like Lemon Pledge! Use peppermint. I have four kinds in my yard—a native peppermint (sharp and clean), a cultivated peppermint (hardy, fresh, fairly strong), “mojito mint” (whatever the heck that is), and a chocolate peppermint (supersharp with a chocolatey overtone). Chocolate peppermint is my favorite.
Cut and wash four to six cups of mint plant tops. Use mostly leaves, although soft upper stems and a few flowers are okay. Throw this into a blender with half a cup of powdered sugar. (Regular sugar takes forever to dissolve.) Add an entire fifth of bourbon. About any brand will do, but personally I stay away from Jack, which I find harsh. Blend until the leaves are all shredded and the powdered sugar is dissolved.
Pour all this into a jar or a bowl and refrigerate it, covered, for an hour—no longer—and then strain out the shredded peppermint greens and discard them.
For fancy presentation to your friends, stuff a few sprigs of mint (with flowers if you like) stem-first down into the empty bourbon bottle.
Pour the flavored, sweetened bourbon back into the bourbon bottle. Hint: It won’t all fit! You will be absolutely forced to drink some. Also, the juleps will be cloudy and you’ll have a few bits of shredded greens in the bottom. That’s the part you’ll have to drink.
Refrigerate for a day or so until party time.
Pour the juleps over crushed ice and serve with a sprig of fresh mint on top.
By now, you know that a little julep goes a long way. Give your guests lots of crushed ice and only a little julep, unless you have plenty of couches where they can sleep it off.
The hotter the weather, the more you need to hydrate. This is not that recipe.
This recipe is for draining first your common sense, then the electrolytes out of your system, then your inhibitions.
It takes a long time to arrive at the stagehands’ picnic in Fools Paradise, on the hottest day of a Chicago summer, but once you get there, you’ll find satisfaction.