I have never been to the Kentucky Derby, but every year my family and friends celebrate it as if we were racing heirs from Lexington. Our standard menu includes everything from ham biscuits, hot browns, and homemade Derby pie. A few rounds of Mint Juleps, of course, are a must. This fresh take on the classic, with pineapple chunks, spicy ginger syrup, and a sprinkle of black peppercorns, will be your go-to from now until summer meets its final days.
This year I decided to branch out from the traditional Mint Julep, and I may never look back. A spicy ginger syrup tinged with black peppercorns stands in place of the usual simple syrup, and pineapple chunks are muddled right alongside the mint. Kentucky bourbon is poured over a mountain of finely crushed ice, followed by a splash (or two) of pineapple juice to bring all of the flavors home.
This julep is sweet and spicy and just as good as the original. Watch out, though! The actual race may only last two minutes, but these can knock you out in just one.
Ginger-Mint Juleps with Fresh Pineapple
Makes 1 cocktail (can be easily doubled or tripled)
8 to 10
heaping tablespoons chopped pineapple
ginger syrup (see recipe below)
(1/4 cup) Kentucky bourbon, such as Maker's Mark
pineapple juice, or more to taste
Mint springs and pineapple wedges, for garnish
Place mint, pineapple, and ginger syrup into the bottom of a cocktail glass or julep cup.
Using a muddler or wooden spoon, mash the ingredients to release the flavors.
Pack finely crushed ice over the fruit mixture, filling the glass all the way to the top. Pour the whiskey over the ice, followed by the pineapple juice and stir gently to combine. Top with more crushed ice to fill the glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and wedge of pineapple. The drink will be stiff at first but mellows as the ice melts. Add more pineapple you want it sweeter.
To make a batch of 4 juleps, quadruple the amounts of syrup, mint, and pineapple and muddle in glass bowl. Split between 4 cocktail glasses and continue with the recipe.
Makes 2 cups
peeled, sliced ginger
Bring water, sugar, ginger, and peppercorns to a boil in a large sauce pot over high heat. Turn down to medium and cook, maintaing a rapid simmer, until liquid is reduced to 2 cups, about 1 hour.
Transfer the mixture (do not strain) to a heat proof container to cool completely. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for two months, or half the recipe if desired.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)