Sip and dream..
The mint julep isn`t original to New Orleans though, but imported from the southern states where it was developed. Nevertheless it has become a very important New Orleanian Cocktail.
Without doubt, a good Mint Julep is a true Southern pleasure. On the first saturday in may is the Kentucky Derby Day and julpes are served around the US and bourbon is the spirit used.
The Julep wasn`t originally invented in the US though – it was actually invented very far away – many centuries ago in Persia. It might be even older than that, i`ve read that it dates back even to A.D 1400.
Water and rose petals made a refreshingly scented Arabic drink called julab. This drink was later introduced to the countries around the Mèditerranian sea and the rose petals was replaced by mint which was a plant indigenous to the area. The drink changed its name to mint julep and became very popular in Europe. It was most commonly used in the eastern parts as a morning drink among the farmers.
Water and mint = julep. How could that become an American Bourbon drink?
The way to the mint julep as we know it today is both long and colorful. Originating in Persia, drunk in various forms in Europe and without doubt developed in the US – the addition of American whiskey did dramatically change the recipe.
But the first julep drinks in America were probably not made with bourbon but rather rye or other available spirits of that time like rum. Its believed that the drinking of the julep started in the US somewhere on the southern and east coast around the 1700s.
The first reference of a non medical type of mint julep in 1833 states: Put 4 to 5 unbruised mint stalks into a tumbler, on them place a lump of ice, add brandy water and sugar.This was a recipe identical to a drink called mint sling and it was the first time brandy was used in this drink which was referred to as a morning drink at the time.
Early juleps contained even fresh pineapple that was rubbed around the rim of the glass, then Claret or Madeira was added. The beverage were supposed to be of southern origin and the way of preparing seemed to have been varied among the states. There were also many different varietes of juleps made and were both stirred and shaken – look at these for example:
In 1846 fresh mint, equal parts brandy and rum, sugar and thinly plained ice was shaken in two tumblers. In 1852 another julep called cocoa-nut julep (!) was made with water from the young green coconuts that was poured into a glass goblet holding at least half a gallon and to this is added the coconut jelly…sweetened with sugar and Holland gin..aka Genever. There even appeared juleps garnished with strawberries in 1853…and in juleps have been used both bananas, raspberry juice and cucumbers.
In 1856 a gentleman in Louisiana placed side by side two large tumblers. In one he putted a spoonful of white crushed sugar. Then a slice of lemon and a slice of orange and then a few sprigs of fresh mint. Then a handful of crushed ice, a little water and finally a large glass measure of cognac.When this was done he lifted the glasses in each hand and poured from to another and back.
Then a fresh piece of a pineapple was cut and swept around the rim around the glass.The pineapple cleared the glass from sugar and pieces of mint and added a sweet fragrant aroma on the glass. This was called “The latest New Orleans touch 😉
I`m not sure when silver pitchers first were used but around 1901 it was spoken of as the only way to make a real julep. At around the same time the leaves of the mint were stripped off the stems one by one as the stems are bitter. The leaves were steeped in whiskey over night.
The cup was filled to the brim with ice and a small lump of sugar was mixed with as little water as possible. The leaves were strained off from the whiskey and the water and sugar mixture added. Now the drink was stirred and finally a sprig of mint added on top of the ice. Probably this was the first mint julep similar to the julep as we know it.
The good thing with using the julep cup is that it chills the drink and makes the frost appear faster and its also very nice to look at if you ask me.
The first uses of Bourbon came around in 1933 when cold spring water was first mixed with sugar. Then in a separate glass the mint was crushed within the glass with a spoon and then mint was discarded as a sacrifice. The glass was filled with cracked ice and bourbon poured in the glass. The mixture was left to cool for a while before sugared water was poured over it. No stirring was allowed. It was set to stand for a moment before finally fresh sprigs of mint were placed around the brim.
The Mint Julep became Churchill Down’s signature drink in 1938 when they started to serve the julep in sourvenir glasses for 75 cents a drink. Today Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event.
I love the julep! its refreshing and its tasty. There are many different juleps..and many ways to prepare them and here´s one:
Bourbon, Water, Sugar (or simple syrup) and Mint – is all you need.
1 Tbsp. simple syrup (or use fine sugar and water)
2 oz. bourbon
6–7 fresh mint leaves (and a mint sprig for garnish)
I can sure haz me some julep! and here`s the famous video again with Chris McMillan, showing you how to make a proper julep while reciting a wonderful poem – well worth watching: