In the spirit of both Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby, here is a mint cocktail to celebrate them together!
In the spring there aren’t a whole lot of holidays or events that call for big celebrations, but there are two days that tend to be a good excuse to break out the bar cart and celebrate with a few cocktails, Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby. Both of these holidays are associated with iconic traditional cocktails, so naturally we are big fans of these holidays!
This year just happens to be a special occasion where both of these holidays just happen to fall on the same day! With that in mind, we decided we had to come up with a recipe that celebrated both of these holidays by combining parts of them into one, and with that, the Mexican Mint Julep was born!
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These days, Cinco de Mayo is known as a good excuse to party, but the celebration has its roots way back to 1862 when the Mexican Army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla. The French Army was considered a vastly superior force, better equipped and with far more troops than the out-manned Mexican Army, but against all odds, the Mexican Army came out victorious, and the next week the President of Mexico declared that May 5th would be a national day of celebration in Mexico.
And while celebrating a Mexican military victory is natural in Mexico, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense if you live in another county, but this is where the great melting pot experience of living in the US starts kicks in and the blending in of other cultures leads to celebrating all kinds of heritages,so it was only natural when Mexican Americans started celebrating their Mexican heritage on Cinco De Mayo! A Mexican celebration calls for some kind of cocktail, and the most iconic Mexican cocktail might be a margarita!
The margarita is a classic simple cocktail, made with tequila, orange liqueur and lime, a pleasing combination of sweet and citrus tart that is refreshing and crisp. And while most people make their margaritas with tequila, we like going with mezcal, the bolder, smokier cousin of tequila that brings a depth and richness to the classic margarita. Both spirits are native to Mexico, so using a good mezcal in a cocktail definitely is a great way to celebrate Mexico!
The other big spring event that is definitely a party is the Kentucky Derby, which technically is a big and very famous horse race, but really is just a good excuse to drink the traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep. The official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby since 1938, the Mint Julep gets a big bounce in popularity when the Kentucky Derby rolls around and in fact, during the Derby weekend they typically serve around 120,000 mint Juleps!
Traditionally served in a silver julep cup amidst a pile of crushed ice, the mint julep is famous as not only for its dominance of the Derby, but also as the drink of choice on many porches across the American South on a hot summer evening.The Mint Julep is a classic smash cocktail made with bourbon, sugar and mint.
What is a smash cocktail? Smash cocktails are a style of cocktails where a fresh ingredient is muddled or “smashed” to release the essence of the ingredient into the cocktail. In the case of the Mint Julep, a pile of fresh mint is muddled with sugar and water, releasing the essential oils of the mint and creating a mint infused simple syrup.
At this point, the appeal of the Mint Julep in the American South starts to make sense when add in a pile of crushed ice and a nice healthy dose of the South’s favorite spirit, bourbon. The Mint Julep is served icy cold (and ideally cold enough to frost the glass or julep cup!) and when made properly, the perfect combination of herbal sweetness that will help beat the heat!
In fact, that chilled frosted cocktail look is why traditionally the mint julep is severed in a metal julep cup as that metal helps to conduct the chill out to the exterior of the cup and create a frosty finish all over the outside of the cup!
With both of these big party events falling on the same day this year, we decided that we should combine a great Mexican spirit like mezcal with the herbal sweetness of the Mint Julep and make ourselves a Mexican Mint Julep! But wait you say! Doesn’t a julep have to be made with bourbon?
The answer is no, in fact, the julep was likely originally made with brandy or gin! So substituting in a great bold spirit like mezcal to make our Mexican Mint Julep means that this will be one great sipper!
The smokey spice of the mezcal playing against the herbal sweetness of the mint and sugar makes for a really pleasing sip. We swapped out the regular white sugar for some rich brown sugar which adds a warm depth to the sweet side and bringing a hint of that caramel flavor that can be found in bourbon!
Add in the crushed ice to chill everything down and top it with a few jalapeno slices and a bouquet of fresh mint and you have a cocktail to celebrate!
Like this recipe? Try these below, too!
Other Mint Juleps
Mint Julep – Liquor.com
Sweet Tea Mint Juleps – How Sweet Eats
Gin Mint Julep – Southern FATTY
Frozen Mint Julep – She Wears Many Hats
Lemonade Mint Julep – Bless Her Heart Ya’ll
Other Mint Cocktails
Cucumber Cooler – Minimalist Baker
Vodka Mint Lemonade – Laylita
The Bootleg Cocktail – Cookie & Kate
Mint Infused Blueberry Cocktail – If You Give a Blonde a Ktichen
Strawberry Mint Lemonade Cocktails – Pursuit of it All
Prep Time3 minutes
Total Time3 minutes
- 2 oz Mezcal
- 4-5 mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 4-5 drops of water (enough to get sugar to melt)
- jalapeño slices for garnish
- Mint bunch for garnish
- Crushed ice
- Add brown sugar and water to a rocks glass or julep cup.
- Stir the sugar and water until it starts to melt / dissolve
- Add the mint leaves
- Muddle the mint and sugar.
- Fill the glass with crushed ice
- Add Mezcal and stir until the glass is frosty.
- Top with jalapeno slices and a bunch of mint.
Amount Per Serving:
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