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7 Tricks from Bartenders on How to Make a Better Mint Julep

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While the Kentucky Derby may have passed, there’s no time like the present to enjoy one of the sport’s most deliciously iconic, refreshing drinks: the mint julep. Especially when the present—May 30—is Mint Julep Day. To celebrate the holiday, we’ve compiled tips, tricks and recipes from bartenders across the country, including the mint julep’s home state of Kentucky.

1. DON'T OVER-MUDDLE THE MINT.

Muddling is one of the most important steps in the mint julep process, according to James Bolt, beverage director and bar manager at The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina. But don’t just start pounding away; first, you must understand the process.

“Most people think muddling is the hard pounding motion of breaking up and releasing the flavor, but such force will release a bitter compound,” says Bolt. “The key is to gently press on the mint leaves so the natural oils are released.”

2. SAVOR THE SMELLS.

The mint julep is as much about flavor as it is smell. To capitalize on the mint’s inherently strong scent, Bolt suggests placing your head as close to the straw as possible to soak up the aromas. Cincinnati’s most respected mixologist, Molly Wellmann, also recommends placing the straw directly down the middle of the mint sprig to further excite the senses.

3. RUB THE GLASS.

Take the sensory overload one tasteful step further by rubbing the glass with mint leaves prior to pouring the drink. This trick belongs to Keri Smith, head bartender at Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar in Louisville, Kentucky. By rubbing the glass, the mint’s oils last longer, adding that strong, minty aroma to each and every sip.

4. USE FRESH, CRUSHED ICE.

While ice is usually an afterthought, it’s of utmost importance when it comes to the mint julep. Pros like Bolt and Wellmann opt for freshly crushed ice rather than the standard cubed variety, but rest assured: Even if you don’t have a fancy ice-crushing machine, you can still make a mean mint julep.

“Use a Lewis bag and a mallet, or a shaker and a muddler,” Wellmann says. “Just be sure to use crushed ice!”

5. “EXPERI-MINT” WITH ALTERNATIVE INGREDIENTS.

Sure, the drink’s called a mint julep, but you don’t have to stick solely to mint. Smith has a number of unconventional mint julep concoctions at Doc Crow’s, such as a mint julep lemonade and a Near Easter Julep that substitutes basil for mint, and includes ginger for warmth and spice.

6. BRING OUT THE BIG BOURBONS.

A high-class drink deserves high-quality liquor. Fred Minnick, the Kentucky Derby Museum’s bourbon authority and drinks historian, suggests using high-proof bourbons that “will stand up to the ice and stick out.” His favorites are Baker’s Bourbon, a seven-year-old, 107-proof whiskey from Jim Beam, or 107-proof Old Weller Antique, the only accessible wheated bourbon that can handle the mint julep’s ice.

7. ADD A SPLASH OF RUM.

Why should bourbon have all the fun? Wellmann likes to spice things up, topping off her mint juleps with a little dark rum to bring out the drink’s caramel and vanilla notes.

As you prepare your own concoctions to celebrate today’s national holiday, here are two recipes to get you well on your way to mint julep perfection.

The Gin Joint Mint Julep, courtesy of James Bolt

2 ozs Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (or customer’s bourbon of choice)
.5 oz Demerara simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
10-12 fresh mint leaves

Add the mint leaves to a Julep tin and gently muddle to extract essential oils. Then add the Demerara syrup, bourbon and Angostura bitters. Fill the julep tin with crushed ice and shape in to a snow cone of ice on top. Gently garnish with slapped mint and a straw.

Doc Crow’s Near Eastern Julep, courtesy of Keri Smith

2 ozs Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
.5 oz Becherovka
.5 oz ginger syrup
Basil leaves

In a double old fashioned glass, rub basil leaves along inside. Add ingredients to glass. Fill glass with crushed ice, swizzle with bar spoon for five seconds. Garnish with slapped basil leaf.

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An Eco-Friendly Startup Is Converting Banana Peels Into Fabric for Clothes
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A new startup has found a unique way to tackle pollution while simultaneously supporting sustainable fashion. Circular Systems, a “clean-tech new materials company,” is transforming banana byproducts, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, and flax and hemp stalk into natural fabrics, according to Fast Company.

These five crops alone meet more than twice the global demand for fibers, and the conversion process provides farmers with an additional revenue stream, according to the company’s website. Fashion brands like H&M and Levi’s are already in talks with Circular Systems to incorporate some of these sustainable fibers into their clothes.

Additionally, Circular Systems recycles used clothing to make new fibers, and another technology called Orbital spins those textile scraps and crop byproducts together to create a durable type of yarn.

People eat about 100 billion bananas per year globally, resulting in 270 million tons of discarded peels. (Americans alone consume 3.2 billion pounds of bananas annually.) Although peels are biodegradable, they emit methane—a greenhouse gas—during decomposition. Crop burning, on the other hand, is even worse because it causes significant air pollution.

As Fast Company points out, using leaves and bark to create clothing may seem pretty groundbreaking, but 97 percent of the fibers used in clothes in 1960 were natural. Today, that figure is only 35 percent.

However, Circular Systems has joined a growing number of fashion brands and textile companies that are seeking out sustainable alternatives. Gucci has started incorporating a biodegradable material into some of its sunglasses, Bolt Threads invented a material made from mushroom filaments, and pineapple “leather” has been around for a couple of years now.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Apeel
New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration or preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangoes, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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