I love horse racing, I love mint juleps and I must confess that both are my serious guilty pleasures! Every year on that hallowed first weekend in May, you'll find me in front of the TV set with friends enjoying all of the festivities leading up to the moment that the field of gorgeous young thoroughbreds in their brightly colored silks step out onto the race track and the band strikes up the traditional strains of "My Old Kentucky Home".
I'm so easily seduced by the traditions of Derby Day and the mint julep is one of the most fun of them. Well the mint juleps along with the hats, the friendly wagers and the food! I've had many a julep in my day, but recently I came across a new recipe for them that is extraordinary. I can't take the credit for it though, it comes from the master himself, Bobby Flay and it's an absolutely delicious and very southern twist on the classic Derby day cocktail! A julep in its most classic form generally consists of Bourbon, sugar, mint and crushed ice served up in a lovely silver julep cup, but this julep is special, different and original. Fresh blackberries and vanilla take a very traditional cocktail and make it just a bit (well quite a lot actually!) naughty! The addition of fruit and vanilla just makes this julep a wee bit flirtatious, like warm southern sunshine and the wink of a beautiful belle almost, but not quite hidden behind the brim of her hat.
Mr. Flays recipe is so good that I've decided not to mess with perfection. Make sure that the blackberries are as fresh as can be because that will make all of the difference! Serve these with great deviled eggs, biscuits and a good ham, some excellent fried chicken with a bourbon honey mustard glaze and you've got yourself a Derby party! For a real treat, make sure to bake a Derby Pie, that gooey luscious treat made with lots of chocolate, pecans and bourbon. Be sure to bake enough for seconds though, because when it comes to Derby pie one slice is never enough! Also, just as a side note, please use a Bourbon that you'd like to drink straight. And, if you're lucky enough to have some of those wonderful silver julep cups , please use them, it's tradition after all! To plan your own Derby Day party go to www.kentuckyderbyparty.com. This fun site has everything that you'll ever need to host one with ease!
For four of these wonderful juleps you will need:
1 pint of fresh blackberries, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup of superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 large bunch of mint
1 cup of Bourbon
In a small bowl, mash together the blackberries, sugar and vanilla and let sit at room temperature until juicy, about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing against the solids with a rubber spatula, discard the seeds.
For each drink, place about 3 tablespoons of the Blackberry syrup and 8 mint leaves into a cocktail glass and muddle together using the handle of a wooden spoon. Fill with crushed ice, 1/4 cup of Bourbon and a splash of seltzer. Garnish with a mint sprig.