A Julep of a Different Color

Michael Turek

A smooth recipe to get you in mint condition for the Derby

While it’s certainly hard to beat the classic mint julep—whether you’re sipping one at the Derby next Saturday or just on your deck—a drink that has been around at least a couple of hundred years is bound to have spawned all kinds of variations. Granted, the last place we thought we’d find a great twist on the julep was New York City. But lo and behold, while investigating the Southern invasion of NYC for our April/May City Portrait, there it was, like a shining red beacon amid the skyscrapers. It tasted so refreshing, we even put it on our cover.

Judging by the calls and letters we’ve received from readers, many of you were as taken with this frozen concoction as we were. So we asked the restaurant that invented it, Tipsy Parson in Chelsea, to divulge the recipe. The restaurant has the benefit of a frozen-drink machine, but this home version requires only a blender and a little extra prep time to make the grape reduction (that’s right, grapes!). For those of you who recoil in horror at such julep tinkering, try this classic recipe. Either way, you'll be in good spirits for Derby Day.

Concord Grape Mint Julep
(Serves 4)

8 oz. bourbon
4 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
4 oz. mint simple syrup*
4 oz. Concord grape reduction**
4 cups ice
Mint sprigs, for garnish

Blend all ingredients in blender until ice is broken up and drink is uniformly smooth. Serve with a small bouquet of fresh mint sprigs.

*Mint Simple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 bunch mint

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, add whole mint sprigs, and simmer for ten minutes. Strain and cool.

**Concord Grape Reduction

1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cloves
1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorn
1⁄2 tsp. white peppercorn
1⁄4 tsp. anise seed
1 quart Concord grapes
1⁄2 cup water

Make a sachet with all dry ingredients. Simmer sachet, grapes, and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat until grapes are broken down and soft (about 45 minutes), gradually adding more water if needed. Remove sachet, and strain the reduction to remove seeds. Cool uncovered in the refrigerator. Reduction may be kept refrigerated for up to a week and works great with many other applications (pork, duck, cheesecake, gelato, etc.).