Mint Julep: Pure-Bred Southern Cocktail Elegance T here are some things you just have to love about the south. Sweet tea, fried green t...
Mint Julep: Pure-Bred Southern Cocktail Elegance
There are some things you just have to love about the south. Sweet tea, fried green tomatoes, barbecue, and the Mint Julep. It’s a simple yet elegant libation made with only four ingredients: bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves, and crushed ice. Simple as it is, it lends a complexity that’s beyond refreshing and brilliant for the palate.
It’s said that the Mint Julep was originally prescribed to help stomach sickness. The earliest account of this is 1784. The next notable mention of it had to do with US Senator Henry Clay from Kentucky who introduced it to Washington, DC in the famed Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar. But this seemingly simple drink gets a bit complex depending on who is making it. According to the 1862 edition of Bar-Tenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant's Companion by Jerry Thomas, there are 5 different recipes for the Mint Julep.
As tradition goes, spearmint was the chosen mint for this cocktail. Some bartenders insist you must muddle the ingredients for proper flavor while others disagree. Perhaps it’s all merely a game of preference when it comes to the Mint Julep. Speaking of preferences, it is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
At the Churchill Downs, the famous horseracing track for the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep has been the traditional cocktail since 1938. The annual race is etched with rich traditions and for attendees, ordering a Mint Julep is an absolute must. In fact, around 120,000 Mint Juleps are served during the two-day event in collectible glasses.
In Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby? If you’ve got money to burn try out one of the premium Mint Juleps offered there for $1,000 each. They are served in gold-plated cups and you can sip them from silver straws. It also uses Woodford Reserve bourbon, Australian sugar, mint imported from Ireland and ice cubes made with spring water from the Bavarian Alps.
If that’s too rich for your blood, you can make your own Mint Julep at home. If you have a silver or pewter cup, that’s the best vessel as the outside frosts over for the perfect flavoring. But if not, a highball will do nicely. Muddle about 8 mint leaves along with 1/4 ounce of raw sugar syrup in your glass, then add 2.5 ounces of bourbon. Pack in crushed ice and stir until it frosts over on the outside.
Don’t forget a little garnish of mint to make it pretty. It is, after all, a sign southern class to sip a Mint Julep on a lovely spring day.