Each year on the first Saturday of May, you will find me at Churchill Downs, drink in hand, cheering the horses to victory at the Kentucky Derby. The derby is the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horseracing and is a magical event steeped in tradition. One of those traditions and the drink in my hand mentioned above is the Mint Julep—bourbon, mint, and sugar served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup. My version of this drink may not be traditional, but it is definitely a winner.
1 1/4 cups fresh blackberries, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons bourbon
1 big bunch of fresh mint leaves, plus whole sprigs for garnish
Shaved or crushed ice
Club soda, chilled
1. Mash together the blackberries, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl and let macerate at room temperature until juicy, about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing against the solids with a rubber spatula to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the seeds.
2. Put about 2 tablespoons of the blackberry liquid and 1 tablespoon of the bourbon into a silver mint julep cup, add 8 mint leaves, and muddle together.
3. Add shaved ice until the cup is half full. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1 inch over the top of the cup. Pour 1⁄4 cup of the bourbon over the ice, add a splash of club soda, and garnish with several big sprigs of mint. Garnish with whole blackberries, if desired.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 three times to make 4 drinks. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson Copyright © 2011 by Boy Meets Grill, Inc. Photographs Copyright © 2011 by Ben Fink. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.