On this episode of “Cocktail College,” host Tim McKirdy is joined by mixologist, author, and entrepreneur Kim Haasarud to discuss the beloved Derby classic, the Mint Julep. They explore the importance of dilution and ice in this drink, how making a Julep is a lot like making southern sweet tea, and reveal some surprising ways to prepare mint for the picture-perfect Mint Julep. Tune in to learn more.

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Kim Haasarud’s Mint Julep Recipe


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 10-15 fresh mint leaves
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • Crushed ice
  • Powdered sugar and 3-5 mint sprigs to garnish


  1. Combine bourbon, mint leaves, and simple syrup in julep glass and fill glass halfway with crushed ice.
  2. Use a swizzle stick to mix ingredients together and muddle the mint. After a minute of mixing, repeat the process, adding more ice until the glass is ¾ full and continuing to muddle.
  3. Top with more crushed ice to form a mound on top of the glass.
  4. Garnish with 3-5 fresh mint sprigs and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Check Out the Conversation Here

Tim McKirdy: We’re back. It’s another episode of “Cocktail College” and we’re joined today by the wonderful Kim Haasarud. Kim, thank you so much.

Kim Haasarud: Hey, thanks so much for having me. I am super excited to talk about this drink.

T: I can’t wait to get into it, but before we do, I just want to give a shout-out to the fine folks at the L.A. Spirits Award, because this is another great opportunity for me to be joined there by one of my colleagues there, yourself. Yeah, it’s great to have the L.A. Spirits family on the podcast.

K: Yeah, that was such a fun competition. Met so many great people. Yeah, it was a fun competition and we got to taste some amazing spirits.

T: We tasted some great stuff. Certain phones were lost over the course of the time there, they were also recovered. It’s a wacky story, one for another day, I think.

K: Yeah. That’s how I’m always going to associate you now, the guy that lost his phone and got it back. So it’s a great story.

T: From an encampment. Wonderful. If you need any tips on that, just reach out on the side there, people. But I tell you, we were chatting about this drink then. It’s the Mint Julep. First of all, I’m excited that if people are listening to this when it comes out, we’re doing this in September. It’s Bourbon Heritage Month, but also we’re not just doing it around the Derby because — elephant in the room — that’s most people’s association with it.

K: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s kind of funny that it’s become such an iconic drink that’s associated with the Derby, but it predates the Derby quite a bit and there’s so many different variations. So excited to talk about the history and the evolution and what it’s become.

The History of the Mint Julep

T: Let’s do that then. Let’s dive in there at the beginning. What can you tell us about the history of the cocktail or maybe juleps in general? What do we know about that? What are some important dates we can highlight?

K: It was said to actually have its roots in Arabia and that it came from a word called julab, which was a drink that was made with water and rose petals. Then it kind of made its way through the Mediterranean where they replaced the rose petals with mint and then they started using a lot of other spirits. But it really kind of hit its big iconic status even before the Derby in the 1800s. So there was one. It was said to have been brought to the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. This is where it was introduced to politicians and where it’s really kind of gained its kind of elite status. If you look through old documents in the 1800s and even early, early 1900s, there’s references in books and in literature. Politicians, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders were said to have consumed it. It’s mentioned in some of Walt Whitman’s works, “The Great Gatsby,” Ernest Hemingway. So it really kind of had this charm and everyone kind of had their own version of the Mint Julep. It was also listed in the very first cocktail book, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas. In fact, it wasn’t just listed in the book. There’s a whole section in this first cocktail book that has a lot of different variations.

T: Wow.

K: But in the 1800s I think is when it really hit its stride and was definitely seen as already this iconic cocktail that had nothing to do with the Kentucky Derby.

T: Nothing to do with the Derby.

K: Nothing to do with it, at least yet.

T: And we’ll get into that, I guess a little bit later, but any theories there? So we understand, or you’ve explained that it’s a category of cocktails. It’s almost like the Old Fashioned category of cocktails, as it were, but what’s happened over time is that it’s become synonymous with one version and basically one base spirit. So do you want to throw some theories out there as to how we arrive at the kind of modern-day version and why that’s become the preferred build of this drink?

K: Right. If you looked in this first cocktail book, they made it with claret, a red wine. There were sherry versions, Champagne versions, and the original version was made with a brandy and Cognac. That seems to be kind of a common thread through a lot of the historical references. It’s one of those drinks that when you look in a Mint Julep, the way it should look is this mounds of crushed ice and loads of mint. It is a very cooling drink. I think it’s also very associated with Southern culture and it has cooling effects. Even just looking at the drink and putting your hands on that frosted glass with the crushed ice, that alone has a cooling effect. I think that’s why in the South it’s also gained some particular popularity just because it’s made for hot days. You want to have a really ice cold, great drink. Nothing could be more perfect than the Julep.

T: So I guess those associations, the Southern culture, the cooling nature of this drink, that ties into bourbon and whiskey-making there. Also, probably as we’ve seen with other cocktails like the Sazerac, phylloxera, brandy and Cognac becoming more expensive, it probably seems like it might track with that timeline too. American whiskey overtaking Cognac and stuff in cocktails.

K: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. To your point, we saw it happen in a variety of different classic cocktails, including the Julep. It already kind of had this iconic status and then especially when politicians were introduced to it, it’s kind of a natural progression for it to happen, for it to become so iconic with the Kentucky Derby, because Southern culture is obviously incorporated into the Derby, and it happens in the springtime, in the height of mint season too, where it’s readily abundant too. So it kind of makes sense that it would all start to be aligned in the Derby in Kentucky where that is the home of bourbon too. So all of that kind of makes sense.

T: Also just without trying to be too reductive here, but the generally sweeter profile of bourbon versus basically any of those spirits that we’re talking about there, that really does in my mind seem to be a better match for mint than say Cognac, which I’m sure would be great.

K: Right. We’ll get into the technique in just a minute, but a really good Mint Julep is ice, ice, ice cold. It’s also kind of diluted. The worst thing to do is, when you see a recipe for a Mint Julep and you were to try to make it fast — I have a really fun story — but it’s not going to be diluted enough. So you need it to be really where the bourbon and the whiskey and the main spirit plays a front and center role in that. With the ice and the mint, I think it really accents bourbon and rye in such a beautiful way.

T: I think what you’re saying there, too, also highlights that this might come across as a simple drink, but executing this really well is a study in understanding both how it’s going to evolve over time and probably the situation that people are drinking them in, that it’s going to be warm, that ice is going to melt and you need something that’s going to hold up to that.

K: Right. So I have a fun story. When I was first bartending, I was working at this country club. It’s called Apawamis Country Club in Rye, N.Y. It doesn’t get more waspy than that. So Derby Day, a huge, huge tradition at this country club, everybody kind of has the whole pomp and circumstance around it. I think this country club was where Barbara Bush met George Bush at one point.

T: Wow.

K: So it came Derby Day and this is the first year that I was working there. The manager just kind of handed me the recipe. We need to make 500 Juleps. I’m like, okay. If you just look at the recipe, all it is is bourbon, a little bit of sugar, not much, little bit, mint, and ice. That is it. So if you’re trying to kind of like, oh, I’m going to add the bourbon, a little simple syrup, add ice and mint and I’m done. So anyway, I was cranking them out and this one guy was watching me do it, this member. He comes over and he’s like, “Ma’am, ma’am, what are you doing?” I was like, “It’s Derby Day. I’m making Mint Juleps. And he was like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” He goes, “Juleps are from the South.” He had this really thick accent and he goes, “Juleps are from the South.” He goes, “We like our Mint Juleps like we like our iced tea. A lot of ice, a little bit sweet, and you got to take your time with it.” So for me, that was kind of a little bit of a game changer in that really understanding the technique and making this drink, you can’t do it fast. It has to have time to dilute and get really, really cold. This is one of those drinks when I’ve made for bigger parties, I make them in advance. Actually the longer that they sit out on the counter where it allows the frost to be around the glass, the better.

T: Yeah, that makes sense. And just visually too, it’s stunning.

K: Yes, yes. So you do have to incorporate some technique and it does drive me crazy. I’ve actually been in Louisville and have had Mint Juleps that were not good at all. Even at the place supposedly where they’re the most popular, I think everybody’s probably had a bad Mint Julep before. But just with a little bit of technique, you can make a great one all the time.

T: So speaking of that, okay. We said this is bigger than the Derby, but when does this start to become the official drink there or really associated with it beyond just geographical ties and cultural ties there?

K: It didn’t actually become the official drink of the Kentucky Derby until the 1980s.

T: Wow.

K: So a good 100 years after the Kentucky Derby was established. So it just goes to show you, you could even say it’s kind of more recent. It’s only been in the past 40 years where it really became associated in a more official capacity.

T: How does something like that come around? Is that big mint industry behind that backing that there, lobbying for it?

K: I actually think it was probably more the bourbon companies.

T: More the bourbon, yeah.

K: Already being in Kentucky and kind of pushing for that, if I had to guess.

T: I find it interesting now that we have obviously the official bourbon of the Derby, but I think we also have the official Julep whiskey of the Derby. I might be making that up. I think it’s Old Forester.

K: Okay. Oh, it’s all part of Brown-Forman. Right.

T: Oftentimes I think to myself, what’s to gain from doing that, but here I am on a podcast just calling them out. So they got me hook, line, and sinker.

K: Yeah, I think Woodford Reserve and both Old Forester are used, but they’re great iconic brands. So I think it makes sense. There are so many different variations of it too, where you can use a little bit of brandy and a little bit of a rye, and that makes it really nice too.

T: Do you want us to get into that now? Do you want us to dive into the ingredients or is there anything else you wanted to cover there first? I think we’ve touched upon the profile, which is something we usually like to do before we get into the ingredients. But maybe you want to just highlight that again.

K: I think when you’re making it, if you kind of think of it like Southern sweet tea, Southern sweet tea has a ton of ice and it’s a little bit sweet, but they’re constantly adding ice and it’s really cold. I think if you have that in your mindset, when you’re making a Mint Julep, that can kind of help with the technique and what the flavor profile should be.

T: Great.

The Ingredients Used in Kim Haasarud’s Mint Julep

K: But yeah, I’d love to. Let’s dive in.

T: Let’s do the ingredients. Let’s go bourbon first. All right. The guys, the big cats over there at Brown-Forman, they’re happy. They’ve got their shout-out, which is completely organic, but let’s look at it more, first of all, from a flavor profile, maybe even mash bill. What are you looking for from this bourbon? Are you looking for something maybe a wheated bourbon, a high rye? Is that something you’re thinking about for an ideal version of this drink?

K: I think an ideal version is maybe even a little bit higher proof. I would say a little bit higher proof because, unlike other cocktails where there might be like 30 percent dilution, the dilution in this cocktail is about 100 percent.

T: Yep.

K: So you are massively diluting it. So you need a bourbon that is going to be strong and really can stand up to that. So even when it’s ice cold and you’re getting all of that, and it’s melting away, you’re really going to be able to taste the bourbon. So I think something that has a high rye content and maybe even a higher proof, I think plays really well.

T: How high are we talking there? Because these days, I think I tried something the other day at the office, a little sample here, and I want to say it was close to 68 percent. Maybe it was 66 and I like neat spirits and I don’t mind the occasional cask-strength whiskey, but that was a lot for me.

K: Yeah. I don’t know if I would go that high.

T: So maybe are we talking a bonded or maybe just a little bit higher than that, but not getting into the hazmat territory, as some people call it?

K: Right. I wouldn’t get into cask-strength territory, but bonded I think is good.

T: I tell you what I’m seeing as well, a little sidebar here, but there’s New Riff whose whiskeys I enjoy tremendously. Are you familiar with New Riff, have you had those before?

K: No.

T: They’re kind of like a craft brand, but they make good bourbon which is not always the case. They make rye as well fantastically, but I’ve seen some of their cask-strength stuff coming out recently and it’s only 55 and it’s incredible. I kind of did a double take when I read that on the label because you would expect it to be a lot more. So I’m here for that, if that’s a trend that’s happening.

K: Wow. Yeah, I got to try that. It sounds amazing.

T: But yeah. So otherwise, on the bourbon front, what else are you thinking when it comes to bourbon for this? Are there any brands you want to call out specifically or any other notes beyond the kind of proof and the rye there?

K: I think I really like Michter’s whiskey. I think they have a great bourbon and a great rye. They also have some higher-proof ones that are a little over 100 proof, which are just delicious. The thing is, even though it’s a higher proof and you’re adding all of the dilution, I think one key component is just the aromatics you’re getting off of that too. The higher the proof of a spirit, the more aromatics and flavor you’re going to get too, and that connected or combined with the mint, it’s a perfect match. Cause I think it is possible to, if you use an 80 proof for bourbon or rye, you’re just not going to get the same kind of aromatic punch.

T: For sure. Yeah. I think you probably really need those things and those are intense ingredients. Let’s get into mint now. You need something that’s intense that can stand up to that mint.

K: Absolutely. I think in talking about the mint, you need a lot of it. Nothing’s worse than getting a julep where you get this little limp sprig on top of it. You need a lot. It’s interesting. There is a little bit of a debate on whether you should muddle the mint, let it sit there, and then take the mint out, or if you should leave the mint in the glass. I know people in New Orleans are big proponents of, “No, you got to take the mint out.” I’m a big fan of keeping the mint in because I think especially for using a glass, it’s prettier. Some of the arguments of why you should take it out is because the mint might have a tendency to get a little bitter over time. But my experience is that by the time it gets bitter, people are already finished with the drink before that happens.

T: Yeah. Let’s not forget that this is something people are crushing to maybe refresh themselves with.

K: Right. Right, so crushing it. Sometimes I read recipes, too, where it’s like muddle four mint leaves. No, you need a good pinch. You need almost a handful of mint. So I’m talking about 10 or 15 good mint sprigs and mint in there.

T: But you are muddling?

K: Yes. So I do kind of a muddle in a swizzle actually. So my technique is to add the bourbon and add a little bit of simple syrup and if you want yours more drier, you can add just a bar spoon. I like mine a little bit sweeter. I add a half an ounce, and then I’ll take a handful of mint. I’ll muddle that in there. Then I’ll add, I’ll fill it halfway with ice and start to kind of swizzle it together, swizzle it together. I’m doing that for probably a good minute or so, and really get that bourbon to melt that ice. I just keep adding ice and swizzling it. I swizzle, until you get to the very top, and then that’s when you can put a big old mound of crushed ice on top. Then you also want to add a lot of mint sprigs on the very top of the drink.

T: Are you employing a swizzle stick for that then?

K: I do. Yeah, definitely.

T: Talk us through swizzle sticks. I feel like these are underappreciated. We might get into this later, but they are an underappreciated bar tool and often not deployed well.

K: It’s not. There are the classic swizzle sticks that are made from the tree branch. Those are good too, but there are a lot of really great bar spoons that kind of serve the purpose that are double ended. You have the spoon on one end, and on the other end might be a little bit of a flattened bottom that can be kind of a muddler and a swizzle too. When I swizzle, a typical swizzle is like that tree branch where you’re taking it between your two palms and you’re kind of going back and forth. But when I swizzle and we use the bar spoon, you kind of take it. We’re just muddling it and stirring it all at the same time in the glass itself.

T: Give yourself a bit of a break on that action as well there, because if anyone’s tried to light a fire in the wild, it’s tough.

K: Yeah.

T: Sorry. We are not promoting arson here or whatever. Pyromania, not at all, but it’s things you learn. I don’t know. Maybe you’re in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts there. Wonderful technique to learn.

K: Well, you know girls can be in the Boy Scouts now.

T: I’m here for it.

K: Yeah.

T: That’s all we’re going to say about that one. I’ve got one for you. I remember this, we spoke about this. I believe this is a technique I’ve learned and I’m keen to get your feedback on it. If you find yourself with leftover mint, apparently you should not, according to this advice today. Use a lot. It’s that classical thing that people say, when you think you’ve added enough, add more.

K: Yes.

T: But I got a tip here from, I think it’s Chef Ouita Michel. I hope I’m pronouncing that properly. I interviewed her once for a story a while back about preparing for a Derby party. She said, invariably, you might be left over with some mint. So you can start next year’s preparation early by buying a new bottle of bourbon, emptying it out into a different container, stuffing that bourbon, that bottle with mint leaves, and then topping it back up with the bourbon and leaving that to infuse for a year. I’ve not tried it. It sounds intense, but I do love a project.

K: Wow. I would’ve never thought about that. The idea of leaving mint and liquid, because we’ve all batched cocktails and we’ve seen mint turn.

T: Yeah.

K: It is not a pleasant sight, but maybe in something that’s 80 proof or higher, it actually does preserve it in a way that I haven’t experienced before. So I want to look at that with an open mind and give that a try. But gosh, man, if that worked.

T: It sounds intense, doesn’t it?

K: Yeah. It sounds like it could be amazing.

T: Fans of spearmint will enjoy or fans of Orbit.

K: Yeah.

T: All right here. Question for you. Not one you get asked every day. What is your favorite variety of mint? You got pepper out there.

K: That’s a loaded question because we grow a lot of different mint at the Garden Bar. So there is mint that I love to use for flavor, and then there’s mint that I love to use for garnishes. So for flavor, I love the typical, it’s actually called colonel mint. It’s great. It’s the perfect Mint Julep mint. It’s good flavor-wise. It looks really pretty on the Mint Julep too, but I’m a big fan of also adding in other mint, like using chocolate mint or using pineapple mint. I think those are really good for the core because they look really pretty, but they’re a lot more subtle. There’s also apple mint. There’s also a grapefruit mint. I would say all of the varieties seem to be a little bit more subtle in mint flavor relative to spearmint or colonel mint or peppermint.

T: You heard it here first too, folks. Kim Haasarud says if you’re using anything fewer than three varieties of mint in your Mint Julep, you’re doing it wrong. You’re phoning it in.

K: We just like to have fun with it. At the Garden Bar, we do our garden julep. So we’re actually adding a little bit of some herbal liqueur. There’s a great garden party liqueur. There’s a thyme and a rosemary liqueur we add just to give it a little bit more herbaceousness. You just remind me of this cool thing that we did for Derby Day this year. I brought in a local florist and we did a whole class called “The Art of the Julep.” So she came in and I talked a little bit about the history and technique of the Julep, and she talked about how she would go about decorating the Mint Julep. So we used different varieties of mint. She used some florals and we did these really beautiful Mint Juleps. I think that is the other thing about a Mint Julep is that they can be this work of art. If you look back at even some of the pictures in the first cocktail book, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” if you look at some of the images of juleps, they are gorgeous. They’re beautiful. Just mounds of crushed ice and different fruits and lemon wedges. They’re beautiful. Especially if you top that off with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar, they’re beautiful.

T: We take these things for granted, but imagine back then when that book came out, just how powerful that must have been receiving a drink that, just adorned with all these different things. Must have been incredible.

K: Oh, my gosh. You think about the execution of what it took to do that relative to what they had at their fingertips and what we have at our fingertips today. Ice was a really big freaking deal. For them to try to get shaved ice and all of those ingredients took a lot more work than what we have to do today. So yeah, that must have been, like you said, just a work of art getting the materials.


K: Yeah.

T: Okay, so next one. Sweetener. Are you going down the simple route, or are you going sugar? What’s the school of thought here?

K: I’ve used both. Gosh, there’s so many things that you can use. I’ve used honey before, and it plays so well with bourbon and rye. Demerara does really well with bourbon and rye, and accents it. Maple syrup works really well. Simple syrup. All of them are really good. It kind of just depends on the flavor profile that you want to go for. But yeah, I think there’s so many options at your fingertips. But for our Garden Julep, I just stick with a straight simple syrup just because I really want the bourbon to stand on its own and those herbaceous notes to come out. I don’t at all want to mask those things, so I use a straight two-to-one simple syrup,

T: Adding sweetness, but not flavor there.

K: Right.

T: It’s interesting too, hearing you say that. Obviously the base spirit is something that can be changed about this, but really your only other avenue for riffing or customizing this cocktail is the sweetening agent. I think there can’t be many drinks out there where that’s the case. So I think that is interesting.

K: Yeah. You’re right. There’s a lot of things that you could do, unless you want to infuse the bourbon with something else.

T: Ooh, nice.

K: Yeah, there’s also, you’ve seen people are adding peach brandy or different modifiers to it too. But the sweetening agent, a lot of people just want a small amount of sweetness, so just a bar spoon. So it may not be a whole lot of flavor, but enough to make a difference, especially because the only other ingredients are mint and the whiskey.

T: I’m going to throw one at you here that we don’t have on a list in front of us. But is there a case to be made for using either bitters or saline solution in this one? We’ve had a lot of guests recently who enjoy a bit of saline.

K: I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I do think that there is a place for that because when you add a little bit of a saline solution it makes things taste sweeter. Even though it’s not, it is the perception of sweetness. So yeah, I’ve never had it in a Julep before but I think it could work.

T: It doesn’t seem like maybe the best candidate for me. Okay, Martini? I get it. But maybe this one gets lost a bit or it’s just an extra step that maybe we can skip.

K: I like it when I’m using it with cocktails that may have a little bit of citrus to them, feeling kind of makes sense. But with the Julep, I’m not sure. I don’t want to say no, because I’ve never tried it before.

T: We can’t definitively say.

K: Yeah.

T: Cool. Next one, ice. Usually we don’t always speak about ice as being an ingredient. We do like to highlight its importance on this show, but it’s a big one in this drink. We’ve covered it a few times already over the course of the episode, but tell us everything you want about the ice that you’re using for a wonderful Mint Julep.

K: Yeah, this is one of the ingredients, like you said, it is a central component in this drink and it serves multiple purposes, and that’s why it’s such a critical component. One, it makes that drink really cold. You want it to be as cold as possible and it reaches a kind of equilibrium in that glass. So it needs to be ice, ice, ice cold, and you can’t get it that cold with cubed ice. You can only get it that cold with that crushed ice. So that’s important. You can get pebble ice. Some bars have it. You can also just make crushed ice in a blender, put it in and chop it up and use that. Or if you have a Louis bag, it’s just a canvas bag and put cube ice in there and give that muddler or-

T: Relieve some stress.

K: Yeah, whatever you have. Yeah, relieve some stress, get that crushed up and put it in there, or go to Sonic. Sonic has amazing ice and you can get their big, probably two or three pounds for a couple of bucks. So I highly recommend that if you’re going to do your Derby party, I would go to Sonic all day long and get ice from them. It’s cheap and it’s easy to use.

T: Amazing. I love that. I love that as a little tip there. A Sonic just opened up in my neighborhood here in Queens. It’s not a drive-through, so I worry they might not have one, but I’m going down there. I still haven’t tried it out yet, but I know people are very, very passionate about Sonic.

K: Yeah. Yeah. You mean passionate about their ice or just passionate about Sonic in general?

T: In general, but I definitely think within the community that we’re talking about here, actually that the ice is something I have heard come up before and I’m like, that’s a cool tip.

K: They have the Scotsman machine. So a lot of bars do have the same machine, but it’s hard to find one. The Scotsman just makes the best pebble ice, so yeah, take advantage of it. They don’t sell it to that many people, so they usually have a lot of it in stock because all of their drinks are made with that pebble ice. So yeah, good tip, and it’s inexpensive.

How to Make Kim Haasarud’s Mint Julep

T: Fantastic. All right. What we’re going to do here now we’re going to make the drink. We’re going to make it over the audio sphere here between us. You’re going to tell us how you’d approach this as if you were making it for us in person.

K: You got it. So I would start with the glass. The traditional glass is that pewter glass, but you can certainly make it in a tall glass. At Garden Bar, we actually have these really cool beakers that we use. Another component about what the ice does too, is that it has the ability to frost the glass. So frosting happens when you get that layer of frost on the outside of the glass, which looks beautiful. You can’t get that with cubed ice, or it takes a really long time, but you could do it with pebble ice. So anyway, I get the glass ready. One more thing about mint that we should talk about with mint preparation. You really want that mint to be really beautiful, so we shock the mint. This is a process that’s also called the Vestino method of preparing mint.

T: Okay.

K: We’ll order 10 pounds of mint for Derby season. So we’ll take the mint and first we’ll take the sprig and we’ll take off all of the leaves on the long sprig and we set that aside. We put that in a container where we’re layering it with wet paper towels to keep it fresh. But even before all of that process starts, we take a big bucket of crushed ice, fill it with water. The water is ice cold and freezing, and we dunk it in. We dunk all of the mint, that entire bag of mint into that ice cold water for 12 minutes. What that does is it tricks the mint into thinking that it’s freezing cold. So it goes into a kind of a hibernation mode and it won’t die.

T: Whoa.

K: So when you are preparing it, you can prepare this mint that will not go limp. It will last. I’ve prepared mint before and it’s been in my fridge for three weeks and it still looks amazing.

T: Whoa.

K: If you work at a bar and you’re constantly having to go through mint on a nightly basis because it gets really limp and you don’t really want to serve a limp mint sprig, we recommend going through this process. So just shock the mint, it stays there in cold water. After about 12 minutes, you can take it out and prepare it. So after it’s been sitting there for 12 minutes, we take it out, we take the long stalk and we peel or just pluck all of the mint leaves on the stalk and put that aside into a container where we’re layering it with wet paper towels. Then you have the top stalk, and we set it on the table. Then we do that with all of the mint sprigs. So at the end, we have this bunch of mint sprigs that have long stalks. We cut the end and then we place that in a deli container or some kind of a vase. You want to treat it like they’re flowers. You cut the end and you could actually put it in soda water, or maybe some warm water, put that in there and it will last for weeks. So we use that for our garnishes and then we use all of our mint leaves for the muddling part.

T: This is incredible.

K: Yeah. It’s a really, really bright green lush. If you want that and I think that’s so incredibly important for a Mint Julep. I highly recommend going through that process to make the mint.

T: A few questions here. Sorry, I can’t let that one just slide by. That was incredible. So I’m so glad that you brought that up. Few follow-ups. You say you’re ordering for Derby Day weekend, what, 10 pounds of mint?

K: Oh yeah. We’re ordering like 10 pounds of mint.

T: How many people are preparing that and how long is that taking? Because if this were a job when I worked in the kitchen, I’d be avoiding it.

K: But it gets kind of zen, I think when you’re juicing juice too. If you’re ever having to sit there and pluck mint, I think the longest part is letting it sit there, but you can go and do other things. But I think the key is that, yes, this takes a long time on the front end, but you are having very little go to waste. So it’s not like you’re having bartenders on mint duty every single day of your shift. You’re already prepared in advance. It’s not going bad and it’s going to last a long time. So in the end, preparing it that way actually does save you some time.

T: Saves you time. Saves you money by the sounds of it as well. By the way, I just want to say this is a cocktail where mint is named. Well, it’s in the name.

K: Exactly right.

T: So I’m happy to hear you paying that ingredient so much respect. So I just wanted to highlight that.

K: Well, thanks. Yeah. It definitely deserves some respect. Okay. So technique. So, start with the bourbon, add like a handful of mint. When I say a handful of mint, it’s going to be about 10 to 15 mint leaves. I add a little bit of the simple syrup. I add a half-ounce, but you can add a bar spoon if you want a little bit dryer. Then I fill about halfway with the crushed ice, start swizzling it. You only want to swizzle that and kind of stir that mint up, kind of you’re muddling it at the same time. What I’m really doing is I’m trying to melt that ice. I want it to be diluted. You want it to be about a 100 percent dilution. So I’m really trying to melt that ice with the mint, muddling it with the bourbon. So after about a minute of swizzling, I add more ice and I do that until it’s about three-quarters full of ice and I’m swizzling it and I’m muddling it again. I’m kind of stirring it, stirring, stirring, stirring it. Do that for about another 30, 45 seconds. Then finally I’m adding my mound of crushed ice on top. So you want a good round mound on the top. Then I’m adding all of my mint sprigs on the top. If you want to, when I’m doing that swizzle process, you can also kind of throw in some fresh fruit if you want to get a little crazy. But then at the very top, I’m adding, not just one mint sprig, but I’m adding probably three to five mint sprigs on there. I really want a good bushel of mint. I don’t want this tiny little mint sprig. I want, as soon as a guest picks that up and puts that to their face, the first whiff that they’re getting is just this incredible mint aroma. That is part of the experience of experiencing a really good Mint Julep is going to be hit with that mint. So even when you put your straw in, you want your little straw to go down into the drink that’s right within that nest, that mint nest. Then for the very toppers, if you want to take a little bit of powdered sugar and just kind of barely sprinkle it on top to give it a little bit of a dusting, yeah, it’s a beautiful drink.

T: Sounds like it.

K: Then you can actually let them sit there on the counter. If you’re expecting a lot of guests or Derby parties, you can let it sit there on the counter for 10 minutes. It’s still going to be an amazing drink and even look better, because by then that frost would’ve happened on the outside of the glass, which also makes it really appealing.

T: Incredible. All right. I got some follow-ups here for you. First of all, bourbon. You said 2 ounces of bourbon?

K: Two ounces. Yep.

T: Fantastic. Second one, pewter mugs. Is the Julep industry supporting the pewter industry? What else does pewter get used for these days? I don’t feel like they’re as popular.

K: No, they’re not. I think there’s a lot of debate on whether you should go with the traditional pewter cup. I think the problem is they can be pretty expensive. So sometimes they disappear at bars.

T: Yeah.

K: Anyway, they’re way more expensive than the copper mugs.

T: The copper, yeah. Then I guess you got the silver as well. Sometimes, I guess if you do these.

K: Yeah, you got the silver. I do think that they are really pretty. There’s some cheaper versions too, but they look amazing in those pewter mugs, but they’re just a little more expensive.

T: Then I guess the final one here, might be a controversial topic. We’re going to get into it. Straws. Because this is a drink you have to have out of a straw.

K: Absolutely. Yeah.

T: Where are you at these days with straws?

K: Right now, today, there’s so many plastic alternatives. We use a straw made from bamboo. It’s sturdy, stays in the drink. It doesn’t get soft, at least not for a while. So I think nowadays there’s so many great alternatives that you can use, but there’s also just the metal straws too, which are great. But sometimes those can walk away and they may not be as cost effective for some bars.

T: Also, that’s going to get cold, that metal one.

K: Yeah, they can get really cold. Another reason for actually the crushed ice is that it can kind of act as a sieve too. You’re not getting kind of the chunks of mint floating up. But yeah, you do need a straw to go all the way down, so you’re still getting a lot of that mint flavor with the bourbon. So yeah, you need it.

T: That bamboo as well, it feels more to me like fitting than a plastic straw in that container, in that drinking vessel, and also with this drink.

K: Yeah, I do too. I would recommend getting the bamboo straw or there’s some agave straws too, which are pretty good, or the metal straw.

T: I guess if anyone’s seriously worried about sieving and in that mint, especially if you’re going to town there with the swizzling, there’s the old bombilla they have out in Argentina that used for your yerba mate. That was popular for a bit here now. I don’t know.

K: Is that the one that has the built in?

T: It has, yeah, the built in thing on the end there.

K: Yeah. Gotcha. Gotcha.

T: Built in sieve. Good for Juleps too. I don’t know. I don’t know whether anyone’s ever tried that.

K: That’s a great idea.

T: All right, then. Any final thoughts on the Mint Julep today or anything else that we’ve covered before we move into the next section?

K: Gosh, I hope I gave you some good tips for people to use, but it is such a simple drink, but it’s all about the technique. So yeah, I would just recommend making sure you follow the technique and that you’re getting all that dilution and crushed iced, because anybody can make one, but you just have to do the right technique.

Getting to Know Kim Haasarud

T: Are you kidding me on worrying if people have come away with great tips from this? Kim, the mint whisperer, I think. Incredible. Let’s do it, though. Let’s move into the second part of the show, the bit where we get to know you more as a drinker and a bartender. We’re going to start with question No. 1: What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?

K: By far gin. As a concept that uses a lot of seasonal and garden fresh ingredients, I find that gin is the easiest spirit to work with because gin has so many botanicals in it that I can kind of pick and choose different gins depending on what kind of flavors I want to enhance. So I find gin probably most aligned with our concept.

T: Amazing. Yeah, it’s incredible. I’m a gin lover. It’s well documented and that’s where I’m going as well.

K: Yeah. When I was first bartending, there were three gins on the market and I totally date myself, but it’s been amazing to see how that category has just exploded and all of the such beautiful expressions of gin. There’s even the London Dry and then the New World. But I think one of the exciting things is that you’re seeing all of these subcategories pop up, the most recent being oceanic gins. It’s on the rise. I’m seeing a lot more gin with ocean botanicals, which is really cool. But anyway, I love it. I love it for all those reasons.

T: Works really well for that category. Yeah, incredible. All right then, question No. 2: Which ingredient or tool is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?

K: There’s so many. Let me kind of answer that in two parts. My favorite bar tool is probably the muddler because I feel like, as a bar that uses a lot of fresh ingredients, it’s the one tool that I can get the flavor of that ingredient immediately into the drink with a muddler, Whether it’s peaches or herbs or watermelon, whatever. Hey, I just cut some fresh watermelon and I want to get that into the drink. I can muddle it and get that flavor into the drink.

T: Nice.

K: So my muddler is my favorite tool for that reason. As far as undervalued bar tools, I think I’m a huge proponent of how something feels in my hand versus the aesthetic of a tool. I think having a really good mixing tin is really undervalued and really important. I like to have a tin so that it fits in my hand, it has a good weight. I can hold a tin set in my hand really easily and pop it really easily. There are a lot of cheap ones out there and there are a lot of tins that might be used as gifts from brands, but just kind of be wary because sometimes the paint might chip off or it doesn’t break the round really easily. It’s hard to kind of unseal. So I think having a really good tin that just feels good in your hand will make your life easier behind the bar. You can make drinks faster and easier. So I think that’s sometimes undervalued, but a really good mixing tin and a really good mixing tin set, I think is really important.

T: Fantastic. Question No. 3: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?

K: I’ve received a lot of good advice, but two things come to mind. One, I received this actually when I was working at that country club, the story I told earlier, where the G.M. said — we were talking about careers, where we were going and what I wanted to do. He said, “People were often associating when you got to a certain position with luck.” He said, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness.” That has really stayed with me throughout my entire career because it’s not luck. I’ve written eight cocktail books, and people like, “Oh, you’re really lucky.” I’m like, “No, it wasn’t luck. I was really prepared.” I wrote book proposals. I did all the research. I did all of this work that led to those opportunities that happened. So you got to be prepared for it and you got to really put in the sweat equity. Then you had to be ready for when those doors of opportunity opened. So I think that that’s really important for other professionals and other bartenders that want to take that into their career. But also the other quote actually was from Tony Abou-Ganim who said, It’s the journey, not the destination that matters. Live in the moment.

T: Love it.

K: Appreciate what’s around you and that you are living your life now. Not necessarily for this future thing. Yeah. It’s the journey.

T: Be present.

K: Yeah, be present.

T: Love it. Question No. 4 here for you, penultimate one: If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?

K: There’s so many. I think my answer would actually tie into the “It’s the journey, not the destination that matters.” The Soggy Dollar Bar in BVI.

T: Okay.

K: It’s so much about the journey of getting there. For a family vacation a few years ago, right before the pandemic, we went to BVI as a family. That is not an easy bar to get to. We chartered a boat, but you have got to literally jump off of your boat and go swim to shore, unless you’re flying to that little island.

T: Geez.

K: Yeah, it’s a journey to get there, but that is half the fun. So I think I would totally want to go back there and experience that again because of the journey to get to that bar. It’s a lovely bar.

T: It does sound incredible. Last question for you here today, Kim. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?

K: The Hemingway Daiquiri. The Hemingway Daiquiri was the very first craft cocktail I ever had, which made me step into this world. Everybody, I think that is in that kind of craft cocktail world has had that experience where you’re like, whoa, that is something different that I’ve never experienced before. So a Hemingway Daiquiri is like a classic Daiquiri, but it has a little bit of grapefruit in it. It’s a little more nuanced. At our bar, we actually do a torched Hemingway Daiquiri, which caramelizes the glass, but I think every time I have one, it kind of brings me back to that moment of first experiencing something that was really nuanced and delicious and had layers of flavor. But yet, it’s not an overly complicated drink, either. So I think it would probably be the Hemingway, because that’s the one that brought me in and, if that was the last one, that would be the one that brought me out.

T: Nice.

K: But yeah, that’d be the Hemingway.

T: Incredible. If I can take a kind of cultural temperature here within the bar community, where does the greater community stand there with that? Have I heard that some folks are like, that’s not… Because obviously a well-made Daiquiri is so revered. Is that the same case for the Hemingway or is this one of those ones that’s kind of like the Vesper that people try to bash it a bit, but actually is a great drink.

K: I think originally with the Hemingway Daiquiri, they made it because it has less sugar in it. Ernest Hemingway was thought to have diabetes and didn’t like too much sugar in his drink, so he replaced grapefruit. But just like the Margarita, just like any other cocktails, I think you can always do your own riff. I can’t stand it when people are like, that’s not the way you should be making that drink. You know what? You should be making it the way people want to have that drink.

T: Yeah, 100 percent.

K: Yeah.

T: Sorry, I didn’t mean to take away from your selection there, but I was just wondering, it did prompt that for me. It’s definitely the first time that drink has come up so far in this podcast. So I definitely want for us to explore in the future.

K: Yeah. Oh, God, it’s one of my favorites. That’s the first drink that I actually had, the Luxardo Maraschino, and that is such a funky fun cordial, kind of seen as one of the holy grails of cordials. But gosh, man, it’s such a fun drink, such a fun spirit to use in that drink

T: Well, Kim, thanks so much again for joining us today. I’m looking over my shoulder here at the VinePair bar. I see a 10-pound bag of mint waiting to be shocked. So I’m going to need to excuse myself here, but thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure.

K: Thank you so much, Tim. I really appreciated the chat. This was super fun.

T: A lot of fun. Until next time.

K: Until next time.

T: Bye-bye.

Okay, that was a lot of info, but here’s the good news. Every single episode of VinePair’s Cocktail College is also published on VinePair.com as a transcript. So you can check it out there all over again.

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Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.