It was Kentucky Derby Day a couple weeks ago, but I was hardly in a Derby state of mind. I was in Chicago, the days marked by gray skies and frigid winds (yes, even in May), stuffing my face with hot dogs and Mexican chow. On Derby day, I was not in track-appropriate attire. I wore a t-shirt and shorts, stained with ash from ribs I was smoking.
But where there's bourbon, there's a way. Though I was serving up barbecue that evening, I wanted to honor Southern cuisine on such an important day. So a mint julep there would be. After the smoky fire of ribs, a blast of cool mint ice cream sounded like just the thing.
The mint julep is a brilliant cocktail, a study in contrasts. There's mint of course, flighty and effervescent. And there's bourbon, robust and complex and just a tad sweet—like a half-deserved slap from a comely Southern belle. There's nothing else to muck up the duet, save some crushed ice and a sprinkle of sugar. This ice cream follows the same principles to minty, bourbon-y nirvana.
What bourbon you use is up to you. I'm partial to Bulleit, which has enough spicy rye kick to cut through an ocean of cream. But if you like it in your glass, chances are you'll like it in your ice cream. This is especially true if you serve boozy ice creams the way I like to: with a bit of the eponymous spirit dribbled on top, to tickle the nose and warm the palate. That said, this ice cream would also be killer nestled between two ginger spice cookies: a sandwich with an exquisite kick.
However you have it, it's all you need to transport you to the sweet, warm days of a Kentucky Spring. Seersucker and all.
About the authors:
Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He currently lives in London, where he really misses New York City tap water.
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.You can follow his ramblings on Twitter.