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Mint Julep with Irish Whiskey

john barry

Every year when the Kentucky derby rolls around, I wish I had planned ahead and thrown a derby party, or better yet, planned a trip to Louisville. But it always sneaks up on me. This year the Kentucky Derby falls on my birthday, which also snuck up on me. How does that keep happening? I’ve always wanted to go to the Derby and I hope that someday I do.  But this year I am just going to hang out around here and probably catch up with some friends.  Keep it low key. Nothing very Derby related except for this…

A mint julep. Though I’m not sure you can still call it that when the whiskey is Irish, not Bourbon. I’m no spirits sommelier, but I would venture to guess that since mint juleps involve sugar, soda water and mint, it probably doesn’t matter too much what whiskey you use.  When we have whiskey around, for obvious reasons, it is always Irish whiskey.  

Paul’s cousin’s husband works for Cooley distillery, in County Louth, Ireland. The distillery  was converted in 1987 from an older potato alcohol plant by John Teeling and within a decade it began to earn an impressive reputation for outstanding quality.  In 2011, the distillery was bought by Beam Inc. which was purchased by Suntory Holdings in 2014.  Despite the changes in ownership, the product line remains very Irish. Popular for its Kilbeggan blended whiskey, Greenore single grain whiskey, Connemara peated single malt whiskey, and Tyrconnell double distilled single malt whiskey, the Cooley distillery is proud of its heritage as the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland. And it is definitely on my must-see list for our next trip to Ireland.

I wonder what the Irish would think of the mint julep? I remember the first time I tasted one, sometime in my early twenties,  I thought that the combination of mint and Bourbon was so weird. But now, now I love it.  I love the smell of a mint julep and the way it’s strong and sweet at the same time.  The way it conjures up images of seersucker suits, big hats and deviled eggs - three of my favorite things.

This recipe involves just a tiny bit of advance planning but it’s great because you can make just one or a whole pitcher of them, in case you are having a Derby party (show-off).  And also because mint simple syrup is delicious and can be used for a number of different things. Like for mojitos, dressing up a fruit salad or brushing on cake layers.  Here’s how you do it.

To make Mint Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup mint leaves

Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and add mint leaves, pushing them down gently with a spoon so that they are totally immersed in liquid but not getting torn or muddled.  Remove from heat and let the mixture infuse for one hour. Strain, discarding mint leaves and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

To make 1 Mint Julep with Irish Whiskey


2.5 oz Irish Whiskey

2 splashes soda water

1 tbs mint simple syrup

Mint leaves for garnish

Add ice to a rocks glass. Pour in whiskey, mint simple syrup and about two splashes of soda water. Stir and garnish with mint leaves.