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Photo by Josh Meredith courtesy of Proof on Main

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Kentucky's Pride

Where to score a perfectly made Mint Julep.

 

The Mint Julep is quintessentially Southern, combining a simple mix of mint, sugar, bourbon and crushed ice into a sublimely refreshing porch sipper. But even though this classic cocktail is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby and has long been enjoyed throughout the South, a properly made julep can be surprisingly hard to find. Here are five southern spots that do the julep justice.

 

 

Elizabeth on 37th
Since opening its doors three decades ago, Elizabeth on 37th has served a Mint Julep worth a trip to Savannah. Nearly a quarter pound of fresh mint from either their on-site garden or local organic greenhouse is infused for several days in a liter of Tennessee whiskey, which is then combined with simple syrup and ice that’s crushed-to-order in the restaurant’s vintage, hand-crank ice crusher. 105 E. 37th St., Savannah, GA; 912-236-5547; elizabethon37.net

 


 

The Crunkleton
Careful not to extract any bitterness from the mint, bartenders at the Crunkleton gently squeeze the herb between their fingertips and then combine it with a healthy dose of bourbon and a splash of pure cane syrup. The flavors meld perfectly while bartenders crush the ice under a wooden mallet. Then they pack the ice into a traditional julep cup, strain the bourbon mixture over the top and garnish with a generous sprig of mint. 320 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC; 919-969-1125; thecrunkleton.com

The Gin Joint
The Gin Joint’s No. 1 Mint Julep is adapted from Dave Embury’s Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and is an ice-cold mix of Buffalo Trace bourbon, sugar and crushed ice all topped with a bouquet of mint and a few fragrant drops of homemade mint-infused Everclear tincture—proudly served in frosty julep cups belonging to chef and co-owner, MariElena Raya. 182 E. Bay St., Charleston, SC; 843-577-6111; theginjoint.com

 

Proof on Main
This popular Louisville bar is known for its Mint Julep (pictured above), and with some 50 bourbons to choose from behind the bar, there's plenty to work with—crushed ice, a fresh bouquet of mint and a silver julep cup are the icing on the cake ... or cocktail. 702 West Main St., Louisville, KY; 502-217-6360; proofonmain.com

 

The Silver Dollar
“The Mint Julep is such a simple drink that it's easy to mess it up by trying to over-complicate it,” says Silver Dollar managing partner Larry Rice.“ Instead, Rice says the best juleps come from a combination of quality ingredients and expert execution. For his julep, Rice always uses 100-proof (or higher) bourbon (“We’re in Kentucky, afterall,” he says) in order to counteract the dilution of the crushed ice, the freshest mint he can find (“Just gently bruised,” he advises, “otherwise the drink will take on a weird vegetal note”) and a splash of demerara simple syrup, which rounds out the drink with a bit of body and a subtle maple note. 1761 Frankfort Ave., Louisville; 502-259-9540; whiskeybythedrink.com

 

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