One thing Southerners know is that, if you can’t beat the heat, you might as well try to forget about it with an ice-cold, boozy snow cone of a cocktail. Which is why the mint julep isn’t just for horse races, it also launches the warm-weather drinking season.
The key to a good julep is ample, evenly crushed ice, plenty of fresh mint and just a hint of syrup. Dave Mitton, of the Harbord Room in Toronto, suggests using birch syrup instead of the usual simple syrup. This gives a slightly spicy hit of caramel, which complements the biscuit-y finish of the Lot No. 40 Canadian whisky he uses in his twist on the julep, called the Lakeside Park.
Make a birch-mint syrup by steeping a cup of cleaned apple mint leaves in a half/half mix of a cup of birch syrup and boiling water. Cool and steep for an hour, then strain. Gently crush mint inside silver julep cups, making sure the inside of the cup is thoroughly covered. Discard mint and fill with heaping crushed ice. Add two ounces of Lot No. 40, one ounce birch-mint syrup and garnish with healthy sprig of mint. (If the cup is large, distilled water can be used to fill. Alternatively, keep adding whisky.)
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