Mint Julep is a bourbon-based cocktail often associated with the American South and is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. Traditionally made with bourbon, fresh mint leaf, sugar syrup, and crushed ice. Served in a silver cup held only by the bottom or top edge so frost can form on the outside of the cup. Nowadays Mint Juleps come in an Old Fashioned glass, a highball, or a Collins glass with a straw. Bourbon is the only liquid in the cocktail, so make sure you use a bottle you really like. Quality of the spirit is crucial to this drink.
The Mint Julep originated in the southern US back in the 18th century and its first literature appearance is from 1803 in a book called “Travels of Four and a Half Years in the United States of America” by John Davis. He describes the drink as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning” and his love for whiskey came from preparing the cocktail every day.
Mint Julep has always been a popular drink and the “Julep” in the name is actually a drinks category with spirit served over crushed ice and it also comes in different varieties. For example, the first Juleps were with brandy or cognac. But after the phylloxera epidemic in France in the 1800s, which affected the country’s cognac trade, whiskey became the go-to liquor. In the 19th century, Americans got to enjoy not only bourbon-based juleps but ones made with gin too.
In the 1862’s edition of “Bar-Tenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas, there are five recipes for the Mint Julep and an illustration of how it has to be served. Cognac, brandy, gin, whiskey, or sparkling Moselle were the spirits of choice.
On the list of IBA Official Cocktails.
- 2 Ounces (60 ml) of your favorite bourbon.
- ½ Ounce (15 ml) of sugar syrup.
- Around 10 mint leaves.
- Fresh mint and Angostura Bitters for garnish.
- In your glass of choice, muddle the mint with the sugar syrup.
- Add the bourbon and fill the glass with crushed ice.
- Stir until the glass gets frosted on the outside.
- Top up with some more ice to form a dome and garnish with a mint leaf and a few drops of the bitters.