Mint Juleps


The Julep dates back to ancient times. The Arabs called it "julab", Portuguese, "julepe", Latins, "julapium". "Julep" is a French term. Just as the name has many variations, so do the recipes. The one thing that is decidedly universal is the quality of quenching the thirst.

When it comes to the Southern Mint Julep, the controversy is in the preparation. I have a 1936 copy of Irvin S. Cobb's Own Recipe Book (written for Frankfort Distilleries) where he states, "But my grandfather always insisted that a man who would let the crushed leaves and the mangled stemlets steep in the finished decoction would put scorpions in a baby's bed." He goes on to further state,"...well, down our way we've always had a theory that the Civil War was not brought on by Secession or Slavery or the State's Rights issue. These matters contributed to the quarrel, but there is a deeper reason. It was brought on by some Yankee coming down south and putting nutmeg in a julep. So our folks just up and left the Union flat."

The Mint Julep was probably first made in Georgia, although Virginia lays claim as well. Kentucky though, may very well take credit for its popularity. It is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Over 80,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, requiring 8,000 quarts of Julep Mix, 150 Bushels of Mint and 60 tons of snow ice. Leaves in, leaves out, straw or no straw, crush, layer, or muddle... This is an issue bartenders will debate forever. Shaved ice, Bourbon, sugar, and mint (not peppermint or spearmint) are not debated in the South. For the absolute best flavor, however you decide to make it, try putting it in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour before serving it.

Mint Julep Recipe
  • In a bowl, place several fresh mint sprigs, 1 tsp. of sugar and 1/4 ounce of water.
  • Crush the leaves with a spoon and stir all well.
  • Fill a chilled tumbler with crushed ice, fill with Bourbon, and top with strained mixture.
  • Or place a bit of the mixture into the chilled glass. Add a layer of crushed ice.
  • Continue at least one more time, topping with ice. Pour Bourbon on top.
  • Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

OR

  • Fill a tall glass or silver tumbler with crushed ice.
  • Put 2 sprigs of fresh mint in another glass.
  • Add 1/4 oz. of water.
  • Add 1 tsp. Sugar.
  • Muddle ingredients well.
  • Add 3 oz. of Bourbon.
  • Stir gently, but thoroughly.
  • Strain into glass with crushed ice.
  • Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint. 

Tips:

  • Use the freshest and highest quality ingredients you can.
  • Silver cups or tumblers are the traditional way to serve this drink.This drink is best when allowed to set in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour. 

This recipe is not how you would get them at the Kentucky Derby, however. They are pre-made and poured over crushed ice. Left is how they were served in 1968 for $1.50. The price was $6.25 in 1999. In 2017, you could get a very special commemorative cup for $2,500 served in a gold cup. Check this link for more information on this charity based Mint Julep.