Once you’ve celebrated Cinco de Mayo, get ready for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
Basil Hayden’s ($42) is a light, inviting bourbon, with traces of honey, spice and, yes, mint. It’s an easygoing sipper, but also contributes to a first-class mint julep. Booker’s Bluegrass ($60) is the maker’s latest small-batch bourbon, and it delivers big flavor, smooth style, vanilla notes, a bit of citrus. This bourbon is best enjoyed neat, though, if you want to elevate a cocktail, Booker’s will do that in a hurry.
“The PDT Cocktail Book” (Sterling Epicure) suggests using Booker’s. The technique: muddle 8 mint leaves and 1⁄2 ounce of simple syrup in a chilled julep cup (“preferably silver”), add 2.5 ounces of bourbon and top it with pebble ice. Swizzle, and top with more ice. Garnish with 3 mint sprigs.
For a lively update on the julep, use Champagne. G.H. Mumm contributes a “Mumm julep.” In a julep tin or rocks glass, add 6 or 7 mint leaves, a sugar cube and a splash of water. Muddle the mint leaves. Add 1⁄2 ounce of Martell Cognac, 3 ounces of nonvintage Mumm Champagne, crushed ice, and stir gently. Garnish with a mint bouquet and a strawberry.