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Who Invented the Mint Julep?


And why do we drink it while watching horse racing? A brief history

The history of the mint julep.

When did refreshing mint juleps become synonymous with the Kentucky Derby — and more importantly, who was brilliant enough to realize that bourbon and mint go together like peanut butter and jelly? The early mixologists deserve a tip of the Kentucky Derby hat for the creation of the iconic summer cocktail.

According to the CocktailTimes, the recipe for the mint juleps first appeared in 1803; but its roots may be traced even further back. An Arabic drink, called the julab, was originally a mix of rose petals and water; eventually, the rose petals were replaced with a more indigenous plant, mint. The drink is as Southern as one can get, but it wasn't until Kentucky's Henry Clay put it on the map at Washington, D.C.'s Willard Hotel that the drink became distinctly American.

And with that, it became the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. "We know from historic resources that juleps and bourbon and horse racing have been intertwined since the very beginnings of Kentucky," said Chris Morris, a master distiller at Brown-Forman Corp. (which supplies the whiskey used in most mint juleps sold at Churchill Downs), to ESPN. "It's only appropriate that they are still in play at the Kentucky Derby." When the mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938, it also came in the now sought-after sterling silver Julep Cup. Need more ideas of how to freshen up your julep — or to refresh you rmemory on the classic? Click ahead for seven takes on the mint julep.


Best Mint Julep recipes to kick off Kentucky Derby

Sources say that Kentucky Senator Henry Clay first concocted the mint julep in the 1800s. No matter who invented the cocktail, or when exactly they discovered the terrific combination of mint, sugar and bourbon, it's now an American classic that has as rich a flavor as it does history. (iStock)

There's nothing like summer's humidity to draw out the frozen drink lover in all of us. The Kiwi Mint Julep, a tropical take on the classic mint julep, is perfect for hot days in the sun. (iStock)

Bourbon's sweetness makes it the perfect companion to any sugary concoction. This recipe for a chocolate mint julep is no exception. Bourbon is elevated to its greatest potential with this rich mix of savory and sweet. (iStock)

While it may be too late to the get the $2,000 Woodford Reserve mint julep created for 140th Kentucky Derby, it doesn't mean you can create your own killer drink for the races.

In honor of Derby Day, May 3, we've collected some of the nation's best recipes for the classic summer cocktail. Its refreshing mix of sugar, bourbon and fresh mint is the perfect way to stay cool as temperatures begin to rise.

The mint julep has a long history in the United States. As early as 1816, silver julep cups were awarded to county fair champions. There is evidence that Virginians enjoyed the cocktail as far back as the 17th-century.

Today, the mint julep continues to be a staple of the American South and the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, where it has been served at Churchill Downs since the first horse races in 1875. An average of nearly 120,000 mint juleps are consumed every year during the Derby.

The Ultimate Mint Julep


Origins & History

Like many pieces of barware, the Julep strainer has a storied history. Its’ origins are practical it served as a type of sieve in the days before straws were invented. Taking advantage of the Julep strainer’s unique bowl shape, bartenders would fit the strainer over the glass or tin for the drinker to sip through. The strainer was an effective barrier to prevent ice, pulp, and mint leaves from being consumed. The Julep strainer was essential when ice became a readily available commodity for cocktails in the 19th century. Thought to be a descendent of the tea strainer, the deep, rounded cocktail spoon was a well-known bar tool and popular for the home as well. Fancier versions made of silver and featuring scalloped edges were even in-demand wedding presents during the Julep strainer’s heyday.


Cigar Aficionado

Photo/iStock

For all its relative simplicity—spirit, sugar and herb—the Mint Julep is a drink filled with contention. Arguments erupt over what kind of sugar to use, the correct form of ice, the proper vessel, even what part of the plant to pick the mint from. But we all agree on one thing: this mixological icon of the South is made with Bourbon. Right?

Not so fast. Yes, the Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the home state for Bourbon. Furthermore, each year an official Bourbon provider (this year Old Forester) serves up an estimated 120,000 juleps over the two-day event, using 60,000 pounds of crushed ice and 4,000 pounds of mint leaves.

And while the horse race that is usually run on the first weekend of May has been postponed this year until September, a social-distancing celebration (on television and the Internet) is planned for Saturday. It will include a virtual paean to the Mint Julep with Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris demonstrating how to make one at 2 p.m. EDT at woodfordreserve.com, followed by a toast at 3 p.m. You can be certain I’ll be sipping a Julep made from Bourbon on Saturday. I hope you will, too.

But you may be surprised to know that the drink was not created with Bourbon at all, but—gasp—brandy. Disregarding centuries of etymology stretching back to a Persian word for rosewater, the julep was born in earnest in the South during the late 18th or early 19th century in an era when cotton was king, but Bourbon had yet to be crowned.

Brandy was the posh sip of choice among the plantation elite and therefore became the base of the drink. Not only that, but all manner of items that we would consider foreign to the cocktail were also a part of this drink which we know today as simply whiskey sweetened with sugar, flavored with mint and slowly diluted by crushed ice. Among the invasive ingredients in Mint Juleps of yore were pineapple, berry, oranges, peach brandy and even a floater of Jamaican rum.

The True and Sacred Julep wouldn’t happen overnight. While Henry Clay, the senator and sometime presidential candidate from Kentucky, is credited with introducing the julep to Washington D.C.’s Willard Hotel, that wasn’t until 1847. By that time a British sailor/adventurer/writer had already published a julep recipe of the brandy genre. About 15 years later, when bartenders began studiously compiling drink recipes, pioneers like Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson were still referring to Mint Juleps as complex brandy riots bombarded with fruit.

Mint Julep recipes continued in this vein throughout the rest of the century. Then, in 1904, a book called One Hundred and One Beverages printed a lone julep recipe, this one with a rye base. Whiskey was beginning to usurp brandy’s place. That same year, John Applegreen’s Barkeeper’s Guide gave first reference to a Whiskey Mint Julep (whiskey type unspecified), yet brandy persisted in most recipes.

With Prohibition, cocktail books dried up along with free-flowing booze. One of the first to be published after Repeal was Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book of 1934. Cobb was an author and newspaper columnist with a flexible elbow and a bent for humor. His take on the julep was that while it was a subject of great debate and pervasive disagreement, only two juleps were worthy: the Original Kentucky Mint Julep and the Georgia Mint Julep. (The main difference between the two was the exhortation in the latter to sing “Dixie” as the last step in building the drink.) Both called for either Four Roses Bourbon or Paul Jones Whiskey, a pre-Prohibition Kentucky blend available for medicinal purposes throughout Prohibition. Cobb was adamant in his love of Bourbon in the drink, and once said of fellow journalist H.L. Mencken, “Any man who would put rye in his Mint Julep would put scorpions in a baby's bed.”

By 1938, the Mint Julep with Bourbon had become the official drink of the Kentucky Derby and today you would be hard-pressed to find a recipe for a non-Bourbon julep without referring to an antique text. When David A. Embury wrote The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948), a book that painstakingly catalogued some eight different ways to make a Gin Martini, he couldn’t be bothered to describe any julep base but one: “Use only the best-quality bonded Bourbon—the older the better. If you want to make a Rye Julep, or a Rum Julep, or a Gin Julep, or a Brandy Julep, well and good, but you will be on your own.”

And so join us as we toast Saturday’s displaced Derby Day in the way of Old Granddad (or Old Fitzgerald, Old Crow or Old Forester): with Bourbon. If you want a brandy one you’re on your own.

The Mint Julep Cocktail

  • A bunch of fresh mint
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled together until a clear syrup is formed)
  • Crushed or shaved ice
  • 2 oz. bottled-in-bond Bourbon

Place simple syrup in the bottom of a silver julep cup (a highball or mixing glass will also do). Add five mint leaves, and gently press with a muddler. Pack with crushed or shaved ice. Fill glass to the brim with Bourbon. Stir gently.

Garnish with two sprigs of mint (one isn’t enough three is just bragging). Serve with two straws, cut short enough to extend about 2 inches above the cup, allowing you to enjoy the aroma as well as the flavor of the mint when drinking. Or just take a big ol’ swig.


The History of the Mint Julep

While you may associate the mint julep with spring, horses, and fancy hats, it turns out that the famed drink didn’t start out that way. In fact, according to Fred Minnick, a spirits author, bourbon curator, and tasting expert known for his whiskey palate, the julep started out as the furthest thing from what we associate it with today—not a good-time drink, but medication.

Take Your Medicine

“In ‘A Dictionary of the English Language 1755’, Dr. Samuel Johnson defined julep as ‘an extemporaneous form of medicine, made of simple and compound water sweetened, serving for a vehicle to other forms not so convenient to take alone.’ People were distilling everything back then to stay alive—the julep mixture likely made poorly-made distillates taste better,” Minnick says.

Sometime between then and 1803, he says, mint was added to the mixture and the drink soon became a popular beverage to sip in the morning, especially in the south. Minnick noted that Virginians were heavy drinkers of mint juleps during that time period.

Kentucky Associations

So, how did the mint julep end up with such a strong association with Kentucky? Researchers believe it is because the drink was introduced into popular culture by Henry Clay, a U.S. senator from Kentucky. From there, Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby takes place, has heavily promoted the drink as its signature libation since 1938.

Cognac, Gin, Brandy, or Bourbon?

Kentucky Bourbon For Derby Day and Beyond While it seems as if the basic mint julep recipe—bourbon, sugar, mint, and ice—has been consistent through the years, there is still a controversy that surrounds the original mixture. According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), Cognac was the original spirit used to make mint juleps. Minnick, however, says that whiskey is called for in the first official mention of the beverage. Gin and brandy, too, were popular additions to juleps at one point, but according to Minnick, the whiskey and bourbon-based editions have surpassed any other spirit.

Mint Julep Cups

No mint julep is complete without being served in a silver cup, the cocktail’s calling card. Minnick says that the reason the drink is so often served in these glasses is simple–theft.

Godinger Silver Mint Julep Cup, $16.45 on Amazon

Sip in style.

The iconic silver cups with beaded rims were introduced at Churchill Downs in the early 1950s and proved extremely popular. “According to the Kentucky Derby Museum, the glasses kept disappearing from the dining tables at Churchill Downs, so they decided to charge diners an extra 25 cents to keep them,” he says. Many did, and many imitators started making julep cups too, so you don’t actually have to go to the races to sip from one anymore.

How to Make a Mint Julep (and Friends)

Mint Julep

Want to impress your friends on Derby Day? We have the classic mint julep recipe right here. Add some seasonal fruit as a garnish or a dash of rosewater for a sophisticated vibe. Get our Mint Julep recipe.

Bourbon Sour

Prefer something a bit stronger to sip on while you watch your favorite horse run the track? Check out this bourbon sour, made with an egg white and simple syrup. Make it even more authentic with a Kentucky bourbon. Get our Bourbon Sour recipe.

Spiced Candied Pecans

Need something to snack on while you sip your Derby Day cocktails? Try these spiced candied pecans, made with sugar, spice, and everything nice. Oh, and butter. Get our Spiced Candied Pecans recipe.

Related Video: The Mint Julep Is Not Just a Mojito Made With Bourbon

All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission. For more great hand-picked products, check out the Chowhound Shop.


The Mint Julep: 3 Recipes, a $2,500 Gold Plated Cup and its Muddled History

For the last 141 years, the first Saturday in May has been known for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s undoubtedly “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” It’s a two week festival and celebration of horse racing and everything southern. It’s also the time of year to celebrate Kentucky’s and America’s Native Spirit, bourbon.

Bourbon purists will tell you there’s only one way to enjoy a bourbon and that’s neat, in a glass with nothing else. At times, they stretch it out and go neat with ice. For the rest of the world, they like a mixed cocktail. At Derby Time in Kentucky, it’s Mint Julep time. Churchill Downs Derby week typically serves around 120,000 mint juleps. Here are a three recipes that you can make to enjoy on your Derby day or any day.


The History of the Mint Julep

While you may associate the mint julep with spring, horses, and fancy hats, it turns out that the famed drink didn’t start out that way. In fact, according to Fred Minnick, a spirits author, bourbon curator, and tasting expert known for his whiskey palate, the julep started out as the furthest thing from what we associate it with today—not a good-time drink, but medication.

Take Your Medicine

“In ‘A Dictionary of the English Language 1755’, Dr. Samuel Johnson defined julep as ‘an extemporaneous form of medicine, made of simple and compound water sweetened, serving for a vehicle to other forms not so convenient to take alone.’ People were distilling everything back then to stay alive—the julep mixture likely made poorly-made distillates taste better,” Minnick says.

Sometime between then and 1803, he says, mint was added to the mixture and the drink soon became a popular beverage to sip in the morning, especially in the south. Minnick noted that Virginians were heavy drinkers of mint juleps during that time period.

Kentucky Associations

So, how did the mint julep end up with such a strong association with Kentucky? Researchers believe it is because the drink was introduced into popular culture by Henry Clay, a U.S. senator from Kentucky. From there, Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby takes place, has heavily promoted the drink as its signature libation since 1938.

Cognac, Gin, Brandy, or Bourbon?

Kentucky Bourbon For Derby Day and Beyond While it seems as if the basic mint julep recipe—bourbon, sugar, mint, and ice—has been consistent through the years, there is still a controversy that surrounds the original mixture. According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), Cognac was the original spirit used to make mint juleps. Minnick, however, says that whiskey is called for in the first official mention of the beverage. Gin and brandy, too, were popular additions to juleps at one point, but according to Minnick, the whiskey and bourbon-based editions have surpassed any other spirit.

Mint Julep Cups

No mint julep is complete without being served in a silver cup, the cocktail’s calling card. Minnick says that the reason the drink is so often served in these glasses is simple–theft.

Godinger Silver Mint Julep Cup, $16.45 on Amazon

Sip in style.

The iconic silver cups with beaded rims were introduced at Churchill Downs in the early 1950s and proved extremely popular. “According to the Kentucky Derby Museum, the glasses kept disappearing from the dining tables at Churchill Downs, so they decided to charge diners an extra 25 cents to keep them,” he says. Many did, and many imitators started making julep cups too, so you don’t actually have to go to the races to sip from one anymore.

How to Make a Mint Julep (and Friends)

Mint Julep

Want to impress your friends on Derby Day? We have the classic mint julep recipe right here. Add some seasonal fruit as a garnish or a dash of rosewater for a sophisticated vibe. Get our Mint Julep recipe.

Bourbon Sour

Prefer something a bit stronger to sip on while you watch your favorite horse run the track? Check out this bourbon sour, made with an egg white and simple syrup. Make it even more authentic with a Kentucky bourbon. Get our Bourbon Sour recipe.

Spiced Candied Pecans

Need something to snack on while you sip your Derby Day cocktails? Try these spiced candied pecans, made with sugar, spice, and everything nice. Oh, and butter. Get our Spiced Candied Pecans recipe.

Related Video: The Mint Julep Is Not Just a Mojito Made With Bourbon

All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission. For more great hand-picked products, check out the Chowhound Shop.


Ayto, John, and John Ayto. An A-Z of Food and Drink. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Carson, Gerald. The Social History of Bourbon, an Unhurried Account of Our Star Spangled American Drink. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1963. Print.

Harwell, Richard Barksdale. The Mint Julep. Charlottesville: U of Virginia, 1975. Print.

Johnson, Joseph. Medical Communications. Vol. 1. N.p.: Society for Promoting Medical Knowledge, 1784. Print.

McCulloch-Williams, Martha. Dishes & Beverages of the Old South. New York: McBride Nast, 1913 n.d. Web. Project Gutenberg 08 Apr. 2015.

“Mint Julep.” Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs Incorporated, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Siemens, Shannan. “The Kentucky Derby’s $1,000 Mint Julep.” CNBC. CNBC, LLC, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Smith, J. Soule. The Mint Julep, the Very Dream of Drinks: From the Old Receipt of Soule Smith, down in Lexington, Ky. Lexington, KY: Gravesend, 1949. Print.

Young-Brown, Fiona. A Culinary History of Kentucky: Burgoo, Beer Cheese & Goetta. Charleston: American Palate, 2014. Print.


And Now, a Sip of History: The Mint Julep, Personified

Chris McMillian’s gravelly baritone — which calls to mind Tom Waits moonlighting at the Metropolitan Opera — echoed through the dark-paneled Library Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton hotel here as he gently plucked leaves from a bouquet of mint and pushed them into a sterling silver julep cup.

“Who has not tasted one has lived in vain,” he continued. “It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.”

Many thousands of juleps will be poured at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby this weekend. Yet those made by Mr. McMillian at this bar a block from Bourbon Street are by many accounts among the most skillfully mixed in the country. Without doubt, they are the most lavishly presented. Each order is served up with Mr. McMillian’s recitation of an ode to the julep written in the 1890s by J. Soule Smith, a Kentucky newspaperman.

Dressed in his everyday work uniform — white dress shirt, black vest, bow tie and elbow garters — Mr. McMillian could easily pass for a 19th-century saloon-keeper. Simultaneously brash and genteel, he considers himself less a new-wave mixologist than an ardent student of cocktail culture past and present.

“Chris is a rare living link to this amazing old-world profession,” said Dave Wondrich, drinks correspondent for Esquire and the author of the forthcoming book “Imbibe!” (Perigee Books, $23.95). “There are plenty of creative younger bartenders who know how to mix, but very few who have mastered the lore and demeanor of the old days.”

Mr. McMillian delights in holding court with quasi-educational bar patter. A dedicated amateur historian, a born storyteller and a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail here, Mr. McMillian stockpiles esoteric tidbits of cocktail history. Every round opens up fresh possibilities for a short lecture on the lasting impact of Prohibition, Hammurabi’s Code or the public drinking spaces of ancient Pompeii.

Mr. McMillian has chosen his tools of the trade carefully. A broad porcelain-headed muddler for pulverizing the sugar cubes in an old-fashioned, a straight wooden one for bruising the mint in a mojito. A flared Pyrex cylinder and stirring rod, more common in chemistry labs than bars, are used for martinis and other clear drinks in which a gentle mingling is preferred to a vigorous shake.

While most bartenders thrive on quick pours and matching tips, Mr. McMillian plies his trade at a leisurely pace, without modern shortcuts. He muddles sugar and bitters for every Sazerac instead of pouring simple syrup. He cuts and squeezes every drop of citrus juice seconds before it goes in the glass. He carves individual slivers of orange and lemon zest for garnishes on sidecars and martinis.

“At this bar, I concentrate on the classics and make them the old way,” he said. “The way made them classics to begin with.”

Mr. McMillian’s way with a julep starts when he crushes ice cubes with a Flintstonian wooden mallet and mounds the powdered ice into a silver cup. It continues as he muddles the mint, pours the bourbon, sweetens it with peach syrup (rather than sugar) and places the cup, encrusted with a thick layer of frost, on a pressed linen napkin.

“Sip it and dream — it is a dream itself,” he said, reaching Smith’s last stanza. “Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey.”

Mr. McMillian pushed the mounded dome of bourbon-soaked snow across the bar as he added his own coda:


The History Of The Mint Julep

It’s a Kentucky thing or is it? The Mint Julep has certainly been associated with bourbon and Kentucky for a long time. Its origins are somewhat sketchy, but I’ll throw my 2 cents worth in on why it’s so connected to bourbon, and to the great Commonwealth of Kentucky.

A drink with the staying power and legendary status of the Mint Julep usually needs a few passionate bar keeps involved by either featuring it on the menu, and/or having it linked to an event. A couple good examples of this is the Pimm’s Cup at the Napoleon House in the French Quarter, and the Irish Coffee at Buena Vista in San Francisco. At both these places they make hundreds of their house specialties every single day! Who knows how it started at these places, but when you visit either one, you’ve got to, no you MUST, have one of those drinks.

When you come to Kentucky, odds are you’ll order an Old Fashioned (created at the Pendennis Club in Louisville), a Manhattan, or of course a Mint Julep. One thing you’ll find out, or something you might not even notice, is that us locals do not drink Mint Juleps other than Oaks Day and Derby Day. But with the popularity of the Bourbon Trail Distillery Tours, and the Urban Bourbon Trail (21 bars that carry at least 50 bourbons on their bars) visitors have been wanting to sample this refreshing Southern delight.

The Mint Julep can be traced back to the Middle East from a drink made from water and rose petals called the Julab. This practice probably came to be from making the water more palatable. Back then, water was the liquid of last resort. Unless you had a fresh stream on your property, you’d better be careful of the water you drank. That’s one reason people drank beer/wine/spirits, or added things like bitters, or brewed it and added leaves to it.

The Julab certainly found its way to the new world, and the Julep was born probably somewhere in there. The Julep was a Southern drink. Maybe since it’s cousin, the Mojito was down in the Islands in the Caribbean. The Mojito is like a Mint Julep on crack…it’s basically a Mint Julep with muddled limes added to the mint. In the Caribbean they use rum as the base spirit, in the Mojito, and thusly I’m sure rum was used in some early versions of the Mint Julep, and the most popular version used brandy as it’s base spirit.

The bourbon based Mint Julep evolved and accelerated probably because of passionate people who loved it, most notable and very well liked politician from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, Henry Clay. Mr. Clay served as United States Senator on three separate occasions from 1807-1811, 1831-1842, and finally from 1849 until his death in 1852. He also served a term as Secretary of State from 1825-1829. Senator Clay made the Mint Julep famous at the world renound Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar in Washington DC. His fellow congressmen no doubt took that drink and shared it along with his passion to constituents in their districts and I can imagine them saying something like, “this is what the good folks in Kentucky drink to cool off the humid summers there in the Bluegrass State.”

We also owe the Mint Julep a great thank you for the straw. The straw was invented because of the Mint Julep because of the mint that was used as garnish that was almost like a bouquet of flowers coming out of the drink. So in order to get a drink, they needed to invent the straw!

After the Civil War, Temperance Movement, WWI, and Prohibition all but killed bourbon, Churchill Downs made the Mint Julep the “Official Drink” of the Kentucky Derby in 1938. The Kentucky Derby was and still is, THE social event of the season, and is the epitome of fashion and style for all classes of folks. From factory workers, to celebrities, to royalty in front all the media, the Derby leads the fashion and style for the upcoming year.

It just so happened the year before, the management of the track noticed that all these well dressed people were stealing the cool Mint Julep glasses from the bar! So ever since then they have sold the glass and all with the Mint Julep at Churchill Downs on Oaks and Derby Day. Today they sell 150,000 mint juleps in those 2 days alone, but it all started that first Saturday in May in 1938 when Lawrin won the garland of roses with Eddie Arcaro up in the stirrups. So Churchill Downs and he Mint Julep can be given quite a bit of kudo’s for reinvigerating the interest and consumption of bourbon.

Growing up, my parents would always go to the track on Derby Day to entertain guests of the brewery so my dad’s sisters would baby sit us for the day. Aunt Bern taught me how to make Mint Juleps, and since I made them every year for us, I think I make a pretty damn good one. But like most Louisvillians I only drink them on Oaks and Derby Day.

Sterling silver Mint Julep cups are also something that highlights this drink. I mean what could be more aristocratic then sipping out of sterling silver? I have my parents set of silver Mint Julep cups, and I always have one with me as I travel the country and the world. My parents would throw parties in the 1960’s-70’s and when they did, they served all the drinks in those cups. They weren’t Mint Juleps since it wasn’t Derby, but highballs and the like. If they had more guests than cups, they’d borrow the neighbors, and since we all had our own monograms on them, we always knew who’s was who’s.


8: Kentucky natives on how to make the perfect mint julep (1947)

From The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) &ndash April 27, 1947

Are horses the main topic of conversation for visitors and natives of Kentucky around Derby time? No, indeedee! Talk may get underway concerning hunches, records, ownerships, trainers, sires, and dams, but it always finally gets around to juleps. And once the words &ldquomint julep&rdquo are mentioned, everyone present gets into the tangle.

On no subject are there so many opinionated opinions as there are on how to make the perfect mint julep. And so far time has not mellowed anyone to the point where he will admit secretly or openly that any julep-way is right except his way.

In this &ldquobeen-going-on-for-years&rdquo argument. the seasoned arguers have built up data that take the wind out of the newcomers on the scene. So it&rsquos only fair that once again the history of this tamed drink be recalled.

By research, we find most all julep fans agree on a few details in the past history of the drink. To wit: The earliest form of the word was iulep. Arabs called it julab, the Portugese julepe. Latins named it julapium, Persians, gul-ab, which means rose water. Julep, as we spell it, was bequeathed to us by the French. All this took place long before there were Southern states in this country.

Fighting begins

When this part of the history of the julep has come to an end, the fighting begins. There are any number of features of julep-making where the battle royal may be pitched. There are the silver-cup advocates versus the glass group the slightly-bruised mint versus the all-bruised school the rye versus the-bourbon school the fruit-trimmed versus the plain school.

On some points, Kentuckians will differ amongst themselves, but no sane Kentuckian will give an inch toward a Marylander&rsquos argument that rye whisky should be used instead of bourbon.

If there&rsquos a Georgian, around it won&rsquot take him long to boast that the mint julep originated within his state, but Kentuckians always have been credited with recognizing a good thing when they saw it and making it their business to popularize it.

Many famous Kentuckians have left behind them their own personal recipe for making a mint julep. And Henry Watterson, once the editor of The Courier-Journal, was no different from the others. It is to him that we turn for this year&rsquos version of mint-julep making.

Henry Watterson&rsquos mint julep

Take a silver goblet &mdash one that holds at least a pint, and dissolve a lump of loaf sugar in it with not more than a tablespoon of water.

Take one mint leaf, no more, and crush it gently between the thumb and forefinger before dropping it into the dissolved sugar. Then fill the goblet nearly to the brim with shaved ice.

Pour into it all the bourbon whiskey the goblet will hold. Take a few springs of mint leaves and use for decorating the top of the mixture, after it has been well frapped with a spoon. Then drink it. But do not use a straw.


Watch the video: Kentucky Derby 140 - Making of Mint Julep (January 2022).