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The Kentucky Derby may be over, but the Preakness and the Belmont are still looming. So there is time to perfect that ever-tricky drink, the mint julep. The Post ran a very helpful column in last week’s food section devoted to the julep. Jason Wilson points out that there are many, many variations on the mint julep, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion about the “right” recipe. “The drink, so seemingly straightforward, just causes arguments,” writes Wilson. For Wilson’s recipe, click here. After much experimenting the other day, I humbly offer my own tips for the mint julep:

1. Buy plenty of mint. I bought plenty of mint at my Harris Teeter and then forgot it in the office fridge. On a Friday. On Saturday I bought two adorable mint plants at the Mount Pleasant farmers market, with images of many mint-julep-filled Sundays in my future. After making drinks for four on Sunday, my little plants are mere twigs. I’m not sure if they’ll recover.

2. Take the time to crush the ice. I didn’t. It’s still a fine drink, but the crushed ice is much more refreshing. And it eases the guilt factor for boozing while people are still at church.

3. Sparkling water trumps soda water. I tried them both ways, and the soda water gives the drink an unwanted bitter taste. Buy a small bottle of sparkling; you don’t need much.

4. Take the time to make simple syrup. I first tried muddling the leaves with regular sugar. Sure, it helps to tear those leaves up, but you end up with a layer of sugar at the bottom of the glass. Bad for the sugar. Bad for the drink.

5. Buy some aspirin. After a long day of sweet drinks, you’re gonna feel it the next morning.