Straight from the deep south, the Mint Julep was a traditional American cocktail which is perfect for summer.
A julep was always a drink associated with the medical world. Back in 900 AD it was spoken of as a medicine, all the way until, suddenly, in 1796 The Wedding, An Epic Poem rhymes ‘nymphs in gardens picking tulips’ with ‘maids preparing cordial juleps’.
As cocktail historian David Wondrich points out “Nobody wants to drink salt of wormwood or suchlike at a wedding, no matter how dull it is. After centuries of usage as a term connoting medicine, somehow, in America, ‘julep’ morphed into a word for something you drank for fun.”
At some point in the Julep’s history alcohol was added, still for medicinal purposes, but by 1820 mint was king and the cocktail became just that; a cocktail.
A true Southern drink, the construction of the Mint Julep became a matter of fierce debate between states, from the type of booze; bourbon, rye, brandy or rum, to bruising or muddling the mint, or neither as some would have it. Before the Civil War the Julep was the most popular cocktail, making its way north into cities and even becoming well-loved in places such as New York and Chicago.
Confined to the history books after the war, it has never since enjoyed such prominence. However, the Mint Julep is a simple summer cocktail well worth all that churning and muddling.
Make it at home:
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1 | Skill: Easy
70ml bourbon | 10ml sugar syrup | 8 mint leaves | 3 mint sprigs dusted with icing sugar | Crushed ice to serve
Julep cup | Muddler | Metal spoon
1. Muddle the mint leaves and sugar in the base of a julep cup | 2. Add the bourbon and fill the cup with crushed ice | 3. Churn the ice with a bar spoon mixing the mint and liquid through | 4. Top with more crushed ice so it rises above the glasses rim | 5. Garnish with several mint sprigs.
Use the freshest mint possible and only the smaller tender leaves. If serving with a straw make sure it’s short, allowing you to still enjoy the mint’s aroma which is integral to enjoying this drink. Serve with a small napkin as, when made correctly, the Julep tin should frost over so you’ll need to hold it with this.