Mint Juleps are a cocktail that is a tradition at the Kentucky Derby, which is run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May every year. The drink is made with bourbon, sugar and mint, and served over ice. It’s strong, yet refreshing – and both of those qualities are what make this drink such a hit at a big, festive springtime event like the Derby. They’re great flavors to play around with in other formats, too, and this Mint Julep Pie is a dish that you can serve on Derby Day or any other springtime occasion when you want a dessert that is as refreshing as it is delicious.
The dish is a custardy buttermilk pie that is generously spiked with bourbon. Kentucky bourbon is a fitting spirit to use in a Kentucky Derby-themed pie, but I won’t tell if you use your favorite rye or Tennessee whiskey instead. There isn’t enough alcohol in the pie to impact anyone eating a slice of it – especially since the pie spends quite a while in the oven and most of that alcohol will cook out – but this dessert still might be one best left to the grown ups. The filling is light and tender, with just a hint of texture from a small amount of cornmeal that is incorporated into it. It almost melts in your mouth, leaving you with a hint of bourbon, a very slight tang of buttermilk and a lingering mintiness that clears your palate to take another bite and enjoy those flavors all over again.
I baked this pie in a graham cracker crust because I liked that additional sweetness from the graham crackers, however you can also use a par-baked pastry crust if you prefer. The cocktail that inspired this pie is made with fresh mint leaves and tends to have quite a lot of them. When it comes to baking, it is easier to work with peppermint extract than with whole mint leaves, and that is what I used in this pie. Peppermint extract has a very strong flavor and you don’t want it to overwhelm the other ingredients in the pie, so I used just a touch of it and recommend measuring carefully when you add your extract in.
The pie should be well-chilled before serving and can be served as-is or with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Don’t forget to add a sprig of mint to give the pie some color and give you guests a hint as to what flavor it is before they dig in.
Mint Julep Pie
9-inch graham cracker or cookie crust, prebaked and cooled
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp cornmeal
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 tsp peppermint extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Place crust on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla and peppermint extracts until very well combined. Pour into sugar mixture and whisk until everything is very smooth. Pour into prebaked 9 inch graham cracker pie crust.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until pie is golden brown and set. Pie may still jiggle slightly in the center when it is done. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.