How to Make a mint Julep and its history are just as muddled as the mint used. When you hear the name mint julep, you probably think about the Kentucky Derby. Well, this cocktail has been around since the 18th century in one form or another.
The word julep means a vehicle for delivering medicine. So in the 1700s, this is were the drink started. But then in the early 1800’s it first appeared in print described as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.”
By the 1820s however, the drink had established its self in Virginia, so much so, that Jasper Crouch was acknowledged as the first master of the mint julep. What an accomplishment! The cocktail spread far and wide from here.
In 1916 the Kentucky Gazette associated the drink with horse racing, reporting that mint julep cups were being used as prizes.
Then, in 1938 Churchill Downs
started promoting the mint julep as part of the Kentucky Derby. They now serve nearly 120,000 of them in just two days using well over 500 dozen mint bunches.
Because of the difficult nature of making one that tastes good, most only drink the mint julep on derby day. However, if you get it right, it is very refreshing on a nice spring day on the porch with friends.
The Greenbrier Inn
, in White Sulphur Springs West Virginia, claims to have the history. According to legend the first mention of a “Julip” was in an account book dating back to 1816. Back then they cost $0.25 each, 3 for $0.50, seems expensive for nearly 200 years ago.
By 1914, the drink was a staple at the hotel. Some accounts reported that the staff called the mint julep a necessity of life and would serve one up at a moment’s notice. I imagine, “can I get an extra bar of soap, and a mint julep, thanks”. Either way, they certainly knew how to make a mint julep.
The Official Recipe
double shot – Bourbon Whiskey
4 fresh mint sprigs
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
In Julep Stainless Steel Cup gently muddle the mint with sugar and water. Fill the glass with cracked ice, add the Bourbon and stir well until the cup frosts. Garnish with a mint sprig.
An Elegant Alternative
General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. from Munfordville, Kentucky has the absolute best recipe for the julep and the most poetic description of how to make a mint julep.
Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start
In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry, and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.
In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water, and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.
Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.
What do you like to drink on a nice Spring or summer day? Have you mastered the julep?