The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race in the world. The first Saturday in May is “Derby Day.” By the time the bugle blows, the bets will have been placed, the women will be admired for their magnificent hats, and the “Mint Julep” will take center stage in Louisville and around the country. The drink is synonymous with the Derby. But, it is virtually forgotten after the race. Our recipe for a low-carb “Mint Julep” is not one you will forget. It is stiff, minty, and is guaranteed to help your mood . . . especially if your horse does not win!
Over 130,000 “Mint Juleps” will be served at the Derby. That means nearly 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice! That is quite a recipe. Regardless of how many you are making for your Derby party, the ingredients will be the same – bourbon, mint, water, and sweetener. The carbs come from the sweetener so that is our change. No sugar allowed in a low-carb drink!
Some recipes call for using a mortar and pestle to muddle the leaves before placing in a cocktail glass. The idea is to crush the mint to release more essential oils. This technique, referred to as a “smash” is also used in making a mojito. However, too much will produce a bitter taste. We recommend placing the leaves in the palm of your hand and simply clapping twice to bruise the mint leaf. Then wipe the inside of your cocktail glass with the leaf. Also, allow the leaf to remain in your glass.
We also believe in preparing a simple syrup for the bottom of your glass. We allow a few mint leaves to “steep” for 10 or 15 minutes in a mixture of water and our sugar substitute (swerve). After removing the leaves from your cooked mint syrup, we recommend chilling the liquid for a few hours in the refrigerator. The mint syrup can also be refrigerated for a week.
It is said that Kentuckians believe when a “Mint Julep” is made correctly, “you can hear angels sing.” First, the syrup is poured in the bottom of the glass with fresh mint leaves and the glass is then filled with crushed ice. A quality bourbon is then poured over the ice and after a brief stir, the choruses begin with the first sip. Sipping slowly is also part of the recipe as the melted crushed ice will serve to dilute the 100 proof bourbon.
We may not be hearing the angels. Perhaps the traditionalists would say the devil has gotten to us. But, we find that watering down a wonderful bourbon is counter-productive. Cubed ice works just as well and provides a stronger flavor. It also holds the chill, and allows for slower sipping.
Lots of Tradition
Joanie actually attended the Derby years ago. The tradition is huge, the pageantry pronounced, and she remembers it well. She even has commemorative “Mint Julep” glasses to add to her memory. We included the glasses in a few of the photos of our low-carb “Mint Julep.” Traditionally, the wealthy will enjoy their drink in pewter cups. Tradition also dictates that they only be held by the bottom and top edges of the cup, so the ice will produce a chilled condensation on the outside. Today, in most bars, the “Mint Julep” is served in a cocktail glass with a garnish of mint.
Whether you are a slave to tradition and want to hear the angels, or you just enjoy a great drink, we suggest watching the Derby with our delicious low-carb “Mint Julep.” Let us know what you think and may your horse end up in the winner’s circle surrounded by roses!
- 1/2 cup swerve
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 branches mint leaves (no stems)
- 4 ounces bourbon
- 2 cups ice cubes/crushed ice
- Dissolve the swerve (erythritol) in the water. Use a shaker and shake briskly until dissolved. Place the mixture in a small sauce pan, add the mint leaves, and heat over a low flame for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the flame and let steep until cooled. Remove the mint leaves. If you need more of a mint flavor add a drop of mint extract.
- Clap a couple of mint leaves in your hand and rub the leaves on the inside of your glass. Drop the leaves in the bottom of your glass. Pack your glasses with ice cubes or crushed ice.
- In a shaker, mix the cooled mint syrup, the bourbon, and ice cubes until well mixed.
- Pour into glasses, garnish with mint leaves and serve. Sipping is required.