In the summer, in Vermont, the place alive with fresh mint. It grows on the side of the road, in most gardens and woods. Apart from cooking with it, I also use mint when preparing that southern favorite, a Mint Julep. Most of us know of the Mint Julep as a drink associated with the Kentucky derby, where it has been served since 1938. To everyone it is known as a bourbon-based cocktail. Guess what? It wasn’t always so. Do your research and you’ll discover that the true mint julep was a “morning tonic” that Virginia gentlemen imbibed in the 18th century. It’s ingredients were rum, (yes,rum), water and fresh mint.
Being Puerto Rican, I am a partisan of rum. Thus, when I prepare a mint julep, that is beverage that I use. The reason that bourbon replaced rum in the Republic is that Senator Henry Clay who, before the Civil War, was known as the “Great Compromiser” for his efforts to evade that catastrophe, became a walking billboard for bourbon. He came from Kentucky and he avidly promoted his native product, which he substituted for the rum. It is noted that he introduced the bourbon version to Washington D.C., at the famous Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Advertising like that can’t be beat.
No, I have nothing against Henry Clay, great patriot that he was. I just prefer the traditional rum version. Used with dark rum, it has a more refined, mellow taste. I cal it my ” Boricua Mint Julep.” Check the recipe given below, and judge for yourself. And, always, please drink responsibly.
BORICUA MINT JULEP
12 fresh stemmed mint leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
2½ ounces dark rum
Fresh or carbonated water
5 or 6 sprigs fresh mint for garnish
- In a tall Collins glass (10-14 oz), gently mix the 12 mint leaves with the sugar and 2 teaspoons of water.
- Pack the glass with ice and fill with rum and equal parts water.
- Garnish with the sprigs of mint so that the tops are about 2 inches above the rim of the glass. If preferred, you can serve with 2 short straws.
Yield: 1 Boricua cocktail.