Cocktail Recipes/Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Mint juleps have earned their reputation as the staple southern cocktail. Ask any southerner with a penchant for bourbon and a mint patch in their backyard, and you may find that this cocktail still sits on many a southern front porch in parts of the south.

As many as 120,000 mint juleps get poured at the Kentucky Derby every year, putting over 1,000 pounds of fresh spearmint leaves to use as racegoers enjoy the traditional cocktail en masse, but that doesn’t stop julep-lovers from enjoying this drink and its many variations year-round.

What Is a Mint Julep?

A mint julep is a bourbon drink typically built in the glass in which it is served, made with bourbon, a little bit of water, and sugar or simple syrup, muddled with a half dozen or so mint leaves and served in a cupful of crushed ice.

Mint Julep Recipe

Serving size: 1 drink

Drink strength: 34% ABV

Prep time: <15 minutes

Equipment needed:

  • Lowball glass or pewter cup
  • Cocktail muddler or wooden spoon

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ¼  oz simple syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • Crushed ice

Directions:

  1. Rinse your mint leaves and pat dry.
  2. Place the mint leaves in the bottom of your cocktail glass with your simple syrup, and muddle them together with either a cocktail muddler, or the handle of a wooden spoon.
  3. Fill the cup to the top with crushed ice, and pour bourbon over the ice. Stir to chill, and garnish with additional mint leaves.

Notes:

  • If the drink is too strong, you can add a splash of water to your cocktail before the bourbon.
  • The more you muddle the mint leaves, the mintier your drink will be.

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The History of the Mint Julep Cocktail

The word julep comes from the Spanish word “julepe”, and the Persian word “golâb”, meaning rosewater. Julep traditionally referred to any sweet drink that was conventionally used as a vehicle for medicine.

Often taken as a breakfast drink, the mint julep was in its earlier history even used as a medicinal drink, prescribed by doctors to often settle the stomach.

Though the exact origins of the mint julep recipe are somewhat unclear, it is well known that a U.S. Senator from Kentucky brought mint juleps to the Round Robin Bar in Washington D.C. during his stay in the capital.

The drink soon gained ground in Virginia, becoming a staple of the state in the 1820s. Jasper Crouch became the first well-known master of the mint julep. Though commonly made with gin, in the 1900s, mint juleps became widely mixed as bourbon drinks. It wasn’t until 1938 that the mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Mint Julep Ingredients

The ingredients for the mint julep make it a difficult cocktail to whip up on a whim. Fresh spearmint leaves are an absolute requirement for the natural oils that they release, as well as is a good bourbon, and either simple syrup or bar sugar. The original mint julep was traditionally served with thin ice chips, today’s kitchen crushed ice.

The Essential Mint Julep Cup

Though many mint juleps are made in lowball or highball glasses, traditional juleps are served in a metal or pewter glass, so that the outside of the cup frosts as the drink comes to a chill. Pewter mint julep cups may not be essential, but they add a nice rustic touch to the overall presentation, and we can’t argue with the frosty benefit of the cup.

Do You Need to Muddle the Mint Leaves In a Mint Julep?

That depends, but traditionally, yes, the leaves in a julep are typically muddled, either using the ice they’re served with, or a cocktail muddler. Damaging the skin of the leaves releases the spearmint oil, adding a potent and refreshing natural flavor to your drink.

Mint Julep Recipe Variations You Can Try

Playing on the many complementary flavors to spearmint are several spinoffs to the traditional mint julep recipe. Though a good quality bourbon is a staple in almost all of them, different flavor varieties include freshly muddled fruit, and even some chocolate liqueurs.

Thin mint julep: Add a touch of creme de cacao and garnish with a thin mint cookie for this dessert inspired cocktail.

Gin mint julep: Swap out the bourbon for a high-quality gin in this variation of the original recipe.

Blackberry mint julep: Reduce the mint leaves in the original mint julep recipe and toss a small handful of fresh blackberries into the shaker for this take on the class mint julep cocktail recipe.

Strawberry mint julep: Add a couple of sliced strawberries into your shaker for this twist on the original mint julep recipe.

Peach mint julep: Add fresh peach slices to your julep cocktail, reducing the mint just a bit. Consider a brown sugar simple syrup.

How to Make Mint Juleps

Mint juleps are traditionally made in the same glass in which they’re served, though some may choose to use a shaker. Be warned though, this could result in your mint leaves winding up near the top of your drink, and at risk of being unpleasantly plastered to your front teeth.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • A lowball glass or pewter cup
  • Cocktail muddler or wooden spoon
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ¼  oz simple syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1 mint sprig (for garnish)
  • Crushed ice
  1. Rinse your mint leaves and pat dry. Place the mint leaves in the bottom of your cocktail glass with the simple syrup, and muddle them together with either a cocktail muddler, or the handle of a wooden spoon.
  2. You want to ‘damage’ the leaves a bit, fracturing their surfaces so they release some of their oils.
  3. Fill the cup to the top with crushed ice, and pour bourbon over the ice. Stir to chill, and garnish with additional mint leaves.

Enjoy promptly.

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If you like this drink, try:

Old fashioned recipe

Whiskey sour recipe

Margarita recipe

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