It’s National Mint Julep Day!
One of the Great American Cocktails, the mint julep has long been associated with the American South and that greatest of horse races, The Kentucky Derby. For those not in-the-know, here’s how to make one:
Mint Julep Recipe:
3 ounces of bourbon
5 -6 mint leaves. Southern tradition calls for spearmint leaves.
1 teaspoon sugar
Muddle the sugar and mint leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. For a really traditional Mint Julep, prepare the drink in a silver or pewter cup.
Fill the container with ice.
Pour bourbon over the mix.
Stir until the container gets frosty.
Add ice to fill.
Garnish with mint sprigs.
The Mint Julep dates back to the 1700s in the southern United States. A book from 1784 describes the mint julep being used as a stomach medicine. In 1803, a book published in London describes the mint julep is described as “”a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”
The word julep refers to a drink with sweet syrup, flavoring and water. Medicines often were mixed with a julep to make them more palatable. The word comes from Middle English via Middle French via the Arabic julāb or Persian gulāb, which means rosewater. Rosewater was a flavored water made by steeping rose petals. It was used for both medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Rose Syrup is Rosewater with sugar added.
While some describe the Sazerac as the oldest American Cocktail, it dates only to 1838. The Mint Julep predates it by at least fifty years, and likely much more. If it was being prescribed in 1784, it was likely around for many years earlier.
Modern Mint Juleps are usually made with bourbon. Older recipes, on the other hand, have described the drink as being made with gin, Cognac and brandy.
The Mint Julep has been a part of the Kentucky Derby since at least 1938, when it was first promoted by Churchill Downs as the official drink of the Derby.