Photograph by Chris Smith
Not all mint juleps are created equal, and Virgils Café has one of the city’s best. We asked bartender Eric Bosler, who has a degree in horticulture and grows four kinds of mint for his drinks, to walk us through the ingredients for, and the making of, his prize-worthy drink. Just in time for Derby Day.
Ingredients and Directions
Maker’s Mark bourbon
Lots of mint
Place mint—yes, a lot of it—in a shaker. Add sugar and muddle to a pulp. Add 2 ounces bourbon and ice. “Shake the crap out of it,” Bosler says. Strain into glass with new ice and serve with a fresh sprig of mint.
• The Glass—While official juleps are served in a silver or pewter glass, the container isn’t as important as what goes in it. “I use a straight-sided rocks glass because that’s what we have,” Bosler says.
• The Bourbon—Good bourbon will make a good julep, and bad bourbon will make a bad one. “I use Maker’s Mark. It’s a nice, smooth bourbon at a good price.”
• The Sugar—Bosler uses the sugar to help grind the mint, releasing volatile oils that combine with the bourbon to add flavor. “I like big, granulated sugar because it cuts the mint leaves into a pulp.”
• The Garnish—“The mint sprig helps you smell the mint,” says Bosler, giving a hint of flavor as soon as you lift the glass.
• The Ice—Most juleps come with crushed ice. Bosler uses whole cubes. “They mix everything up like a ball in a paint can.”
• The Mint—It’s the bourbon that makes a julep, but it’s the mint that brings out new flavors in the bourbon. “I start with mint we grow out back. I have Kentucky Colonel mint, which is used specifically for the mint julep, and I blend it with pineapple mint, some lime mint, and chocolate mint.”