If ever there was a special occasion drink, it is the mint julep, so closely is it associated with the Kentucky Derby. (Which is this coming Saturday, May 1.)
You'll see julep recipes everywhere, but how you make it isn't as important as how you drink it.
A mint julep should be made quickly, served immediately and consumed promptly, before the ice starts to melt and make the drink too watery.
The julep is at its peak of flavor the instant it is completed and every moment that passes thereafter diminishes its quality. There should be just enough liquid in the glass for one or two good swallows.
It's hot. You're thirsty. Drink, drink.
Taken appropriately in a suitable context the mint julep can be delightful. Its sensuality can be nearly overpowering.
As for a recipe, here is the simplest one I know that is authentic, tasty and easy. First, muddle some fresh mint leaves with one tablespoon of powdered sugar and a like amount of water. There are some specialized tools for doing this, but a spoon works fine.
“Muddle” just means work everything together until the mint leaves have been crushed and the sugar is dissolved. Fill the glass with crushed ice, then with bourbon. Stir. Garnish with more fresh mint leaves. Serve and drink.
To make multiple juleps at the same time, have your ice and bourbon ready. Then in a bowl make enough muddle (the mint, sugar, water mixture) for one round. Place some of the muddle mixture into the bottom of each glass. Fill each glass with ice and bourbon and stir. Add mint leaf garnish and serve.
The ability to make a round of juleps quickly but with style is a practiced and prized art in Kentucky.