The Story Behind the Mint Julep: A Classic Southern Specialty

The Story Behind the Mint Julep: A Classic Southern Specialty

The Kentucky Derby is over for this yr, and it was filled with some unparalleled drama, much too. But the race’s signature drink, the mint julep, can be liked during the summer time and even calendar year-spherical.

The coolness of mint combined with the gradual warmth of bourbon tends to make the mint julep a delectable sizzling-weather conditions beverage. But do you know how it grew to become these kinds of an iconic Southern drink? Let’s pour up the sweet drink above ice, sit a spell and understand about the record of the mint julep.

What is a mint julep?

A refreshing and simple alcoholic drink to make, the mint julep typically only has about 4 components. It’s created from muddled mint leaves, fantastic good quality bourbon, sugar, and ice, just like it was in this estimate from Fuel Journal in 1908. According to Gasoline, Samuel Judson Roberts, a Kentucky resident, objected to the Virginia design and style of mint juleps. The magazine printed his recommendations for a right Kentucky model of the drink.

“Take a silver cup—always a silver cup. Fill it with ice pulverized to the fineness of snow. Bruise one particular tender tiny leaf of mint and stick it in the ice,” the journal states. “Then dissolve a spoonful of sugar in about 3-quarters of a Kentucky drink of very good whiskey and allow the fluid filter by the ice to the bottom of the cup. Shake the cup little by little right up until a coating of thick white frost forms on the exterior. Trim with mint and hand to an appreciative gentleman.”

When was the mint julep invented?

Like most meals and beverages in this state, the mint julep has origins in both immigrants’ influence and American regional cooks.

In this case, it is commonly believed that the mint julep started with the idea of rose-infused h2o from the Middle East, PBS describes. The rosewater was combined with sugar and h2o, and medical practitioners used it to make the drugs for an upset stomach taste much more enjoyable. It’s also thought that the term “julep” started off with the Arabic word “julab,” the word for rosewater.

Mint eventually changed the rose infusion. And it made its way to the United States in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in accordance to PBS. As legend has it, Southerners begun each day with a mint julep to defend them selves from mosquitoes and malaria. The consume was so delectable, nevertheless, that it turned a calming beverage in addition to a medicinal one.

And the moment Kentucky senator Henry Clay reportedly produced the mint julep common in Washington, D.C., it became a nationwide phenomenon.

Has the mint julep recipe improved around time?

Not much has modified considering the fact that Roberts explained the mint julep in delicious element. Tesla Viergutz, bar manager of Bourbon Raw in Louisville, Kentucky, explained the bar’s mint julep approach, updated with a copper cup.

“We have our standard mint julep, earning a mint uncomplicated syrup in-household and making use of Woodford Bourbon, and we usually serve it on crushed ice,” Viergutz suggests. “We place a ball of crushed ice into a copper cup. We pour bourbon around the ice and then pour the syrup about that as effectively. When it melts down to the bottom, the water evens out the cocktail so that it is not as well strong. Which is it!”

The early mint juleps highlighted a selection of liquors from brandy to gin. Legend says that inadequate Southerners that could not afford this larger-conclusion liquor and commenced to use bourbon alternatively, which was readily out there. Irrespective of the variety of liquor, the Mint Julep was the epitome of notice to element. Cookbooks explained the regularity of ice, the thickness of the mint stalks, and the cleanliness of the drinking water to make the ideal drink.

Relevant: The science-backed way to control your sweet tooth in 14 days.

Why is the mint julep the official drink of the Kentucky Derby?

The quantity of mint juleps served above the two days of festivities at the Kentucky Derby is staggering. According to the Kentucky Derby’s site, just about 120,000 of the beverages are served each yr. That calls for “10,000 bottles of Previous Forester Mint Julep Prepared-to-Provide Cocktail, 1,000 lbs . of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 lbs . of ice,” the web page notes.

With all over 150,000 website visitors to the party each year, practically every person is receiving a taste of the popular beverage. But why is it these a huge deal in Kentucky? As it happens, the condition is household to the nation’s very first business distillery. There’s even a segment of Louisville that is recognized as Whiskey Row.

Bartenders at Churchill Downs started earning and marketing the mint julep in 1875. But the bartenders’ glasses stored disappearing—the shoppers were thieving the unique cups that held the mint juleps. In 1938, to combat the theft, the racetrack decided to cost for the cup and the consume, a whopping 75 cents. This produced the cups a collectible item of drive and the recognition at the racetrack took off. For a when, prohibition stopped the distribution. But in 1920, the mint julep turned even far more popular as the nation ended its dry spell.

Now, you can even get a exclusive mint julep that advantages a charity, the horse-focused Previous Close friends Thoroughbred Retirement Heart, at the race. It comes with a gold-plated cup and straw—and it’ll established you back a neat $1000.

What is the official Kentucky Derby whiskey label?

Viergutz shares her bourbon desire with legendary Churchill Downs, web-site of the Kentucky Derby. Woodford Reserve is the Kentucky Derby’s formal bourbon. But the Previous Forester Mint Julep also calls by itself the “official consume of the Kentucky Derby.” Primarily, you simply cannot go incorrect with both of these whiskeys.

“Woodford Reserve is an 80-proof regular fashion bourbon, so it matches well with most syrups or citrus,” Viergutz says. “It’s just a seriously clean bourbon.”

The whiskey (more on that later on) was initially produced at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, a National Historic Landmark in Versailles, Kentucky, in 1812. The company suggests there are additional than 200 flavor notes in Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. A person of all those flavors is mint, which is guaranteed to make it a very good option for a Mint Julep.

So which is it, whiskey or bourbon?

Just set, all bourbons are whiskey. Bourbon have to be produced in the United States—there are true regulations about whiskey manufacturing and what constitutes bourbon, Jim Beam clarifies. (There are a lot of other kinds of whiskey, nevertheless, that are created outdoors the place.)

To fulfill the government’s bourbon specifications, a bourbon combination has to be at minimum 51% corn. Numerous organizations use way additional, but this is the government’s choose on what can make it bourbon. The liquor also wants to be aged for at minimum two decades in “new, charred oak barrels,” in accordance to Jim Beam. This approach mellows the liquor and lets it to take on the characteristics of the barrel.

And to qualify as bourbon, the whiskey simply cannot enter the barrel at more than 125 proof and can not be bottled considerably less than 80 proof. It’s distilled at no extra than 160 proof to begin.

At last, there are no additives that would consider away from the natural bourbon. Whiskey can occasionally have syrups or colorings, but a straight bourbon arrives out of the process the way it went in: by natural means.

Was the straw invented because of the mint julep?

Apart from the Kentucky Derby, the cocktail has another claim to fame: its link to the patent for straws.

There is proof that Ancient Sumerians, a beer-brewing modern society, produced extensive tubes from important metals to get to the base of their beverages, a far more pure liquid beneath the particles and parts of their fermentation process. However, mint julep drinker Marvin Stone did patent the first consuming straw in 1888.

Marvin was a cigarette holder maker by trade. And when he was sitting down around sipping his mint julep, making use of a piece of ryegrass to slurp past the mint leaves, he made a decision he could make one thing greater.

Utilizing a pencil as a variety, he wrapped paper and glued it into the condition of a tube. His business enterprise, Stone Industrial, was mass-creating straws by 1890.

With the enhance in the plastics sector and reputation between soda retailers, the plastic straw absolutely took off. But Stone’s initial straw was an environmentally-helpful paper model. Today, paper straws price tag additional than their plastic counterparts, but they’re extra eco-pleasant.

How can you make a mint julep at household?

Viergutz has an effortless recipe that replicates Bourbon Raw’s recipe for a Mint Julep. She commences by suggesting a rapid way to make a mint simple syrup.

“Melt equivalent components sugar and water and boil the mint leaves in that to get the syrup,” Viergutz suggests. The bar she functions at strains the mint leaves out, but she suggests it is a subject of personalized preference.

“The for a longer period you permit it sit, the more it will style like mint,” she explains. Bourbon Raw also makes use of copper mugs, due to the fact they keep the ice cold for a longer time and retains it from melting much too speedy. Here’s the relaxation of the recipe:

Bourbon Raw’s Louisville Mint Julep


8-ounce cup, full of crushed ice
2 ounces of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon
1 ounce of mint basic syrup
Mint sprigs to garnish


  1. Use an ice product scoop to make a ball of the crushed ice.
  2. Pour the bourbon instantly above the ice and adhere to with the mint syrup.
  3. Stir until eventually the cup shows frost on the exterior.
  4. Add a straw and a sprig of mint to garnish.

Now that you know a small far more about this Southern cocktail, you are going to almost certainly want to take pleasure in it all summertime prolonged. Nothing beats crushed ice and mint on a incredibly hot day, and the bourbon is just an added bonus.

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