We’re a little bit country, a little NYC. We split our time between Charleston, SC, and New York, which imbues our cooking and sensibilities with tradition and innovation. This creamy panna cotta is a perfect example. We’ve borrowed the main ingredients from the mint julep—that iconic, cool concoction so intrinsically associated with the Kentucky Derby—and mix them up in a light and elegant panna cotta—a beloved dessert of Italy. The result? Minty, creamy spoonfuls of lightness laced with the faintest oaky notes of vanilla from the finest Kentucky bourbon.–Matt and Ted Lee
Mint Julep Panna Cotta
- 6 small (6-ounce) ramekins or dishes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder*, (we prefer Knox brand)
- 3 tablespoons room-temperature water
- 1/2 teaspoon lightly flavored oil, such as canola
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey
- Stir the gelatin into the water in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps, and set the concoction aside to soften. Drizzle a paper towel with the oil and coat the ramekins or dishes, being careful to really get into where the sides meet the bottom so the panna cotta will release easily.
- Pour the milk, cream, and sugar in a small saucepan, drop in the mint leaves, and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture boils, after about 30 minutes (really, it will take nearly half an hour) remove the pan from the heat. Fish out the mint leaves and toss. Set the pan aside.
- Bring the bourbon to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and let roil for 30 seconds. Pour in the mint-infused cream mixture and warm just until the mixture reaches 175° F (80°C). Remove the pan from the heat, scoop in the gelatin, and stir until dissolved.
- Pour the panna cotta mixture into a large measuring cup, pour it into the oiled dishes, and refrigerate until set, about 1 1/2 hours. (If not serving the panna cotta the same day, press small squares of plastic wrap against the surface of the desserts, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)
- Carefully run a thin knife around each dish to loosen the panna cotta and then invert each onto a serving plate with a quick rap. Serve immediately with a flourish of mint leaves on the side.
*Do I have to soak powdered gelatin?Powdered gelatin needs a little time and effort but it’s worth it. If you just dump powdered gelatin directly into your recipe, you’re definitely going to end up with clumps. In order to get the silky smooth consistency that panna cotta is known for, you’ll need to give the gelatin a little soak to “bloom” it. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over your cold water and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until the gelatin absorbs the water and gets all wiggly—it should look like applesauce at this point. Make sure you’re adding the gelatin to a warm base, otherwise it won’t dissolve properly and you’ll end up with a ropey texture.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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Panna cotta is one of my favorite summertime desserts, and this easy recipe has a refreshingly interesting twist of mint julep. Don’t be alarmed that you’re filling 6-ounce ramekins with only 4 ounces of mixture—the extra room helps when you invert the panna cotta onto a plate. The next time I make this, I’ll add a bit of vanilla to round out the flavors.
This panna cotta has a sublime mint flavor that wows me. I’d absolutely make this again and again and again, though I found the yield was less than the recipe specified. I served these garnished with mint and fresh berries and, on a subsequent occasion, with ginger cookies alongside.
As the headnotes to the recipe said, the bourbon isn’t detectable in the final product, but it adds vanilla notes that complement the mint. This recipe was relatively uncomplicated and didn’t take long at all to make.