Selecting a Mint for Your Julep [Kentucky Derby]

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Ah, the Mint Julep - a lovely muddled beverage consisting of bourbon, mint, sugar, and ice. Much has been said about this Kentucky Derby drink of choice. Aficionados have debated the relative merits of steeping versus muddling, while others argue that the best results come from using a mint syrup. Yet more debates have ensued regarding the appropriate bourbon to be poured over the ice. And should the ice be crushed or chipped? 

But what about the mint, I ask you?

Traditionally, the Kentucky Mint Julep is made with Kentucky Colonel, a variety of spearmint. But why not step outside the box, eh? If you really want to get your Julep mojo going, start planning for next year's Derby now by planting a mint garden of your very own. Get a selection of mints, and see for yourself which one really makes for the tastiest Julep. 

On Gowing Mint

Mint is a perennial. It is also an invasive plant, which means that it likes to spread out and grow all over the place. So prospective growers of mint have some choices to make. You can plant it as groundcover. Just think about it - your yard could be a sea of minty goodness! Mint is rather hardy, and can take both sun and shade, so long as you keep it wet. But if you don't want to let the mint run free, or be constantly policing mint borders in your garden, it also grows quite well in pots. 

Mint Varieties

The variety of mints out there for the taking is overwhelming. But it's not really a question of what exists, now is it? Far more important is - what does my local nursery carry? To find out, I went on a reconnaissance mission to the Grant Line Nursery & Garden Center in New Albany, Indiana. And lo - these folks were prepared. I had no trouble spotting the mint, what with their giant "Jazzed about Juleps? Mad for Mojitos? Get mint here!" sign (photographed above), complete with free copies of recipes for both. Here's a rundown of the eight varieties they carry: 

Apple Mint - also good for apple mint jelly and apple mint couscous, this herb is often used as an ornamental plant, as well. Its taste and smell is reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple.

Pineapple Mint - a version of apple mint in which the leaves have white variegated trim.

Grapefruit Mint - a variety of apple mint, but with really big leaves and citrus undertones

Spearmint - you're probably familiar with this one. Often used to season lamb. Common flavor of gum.  

Kentucky Colonel - a variety of spearmint. This is the one that is most commonly used for Mint Juleps and Mojitos.  

Peppermint - you're probably familiar with this one, too. It's a cross between water mint and spearmint. Often used in candy and good in hot cocoa. 

Chocolate Mint - a variety of peppermint that tastes like a peppermint patty. Seriously. Pairs well with strawberries. 

Lime Mint -  another variety of peppermint with lime-scented foliage  

[photo by Angie Andriot] 

About Angie Andriot
I'm a sociologist. Mind if I watch?
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