Drink Series: Mint Julep

Those of you who are into equine sports and the Sarah Vickers lifestyle know that the Kentucky Derby was a week and a half ago. I was not on my game, and thus did not post this article on a more appropriately topical day (like, two weeks ago). No time like the present, though, so I’m about to lay down some mint julep truths.

There is no definitive record of the juelp’s origins, but there are written reports of its existence by the latter half of the 18th century. Just like William Faulkner, Woodrow Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, the mint julep was born in the South. Early juleps were not necessarily bourbon-based cocktails; juleps of brandy, whiskey, and gin remained popular throughout the 19th century. However, bourbon whiskey was used in the mint juleps at the inception of Churchill Downs, and bourbon whiskey it remains to this day. The mint julep became a track staple at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby of 1938, where they were sold in souvenir glasses for 38 cents apiece. The iconic sterling silver cup was introduced by Churchill Downs President Bill Corum in 1951 to stand as an official, useful souvenir of the races (large, ornate hat not included).

To make a mint julep, you will need:

  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2.5 oz Kentucky bourbon (e.g. Maker’s Mark, Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, or whatever’s on sale at your local BevMo/Binny’s/discount liquor purveyor)
  • 2 sugar cubes

Place 6 or so mint leaves into a prechilled julep cup (silver, obvi) or collins glass. Muddle with sugar. Pack cup with crushed or shaved ice. Fill with bourbon. Garnish with remaining mint. Have served to you by a butler at your private stables while wearing head-to-toe Lilly Pulitzer. Drink with straw.


"Kentucky Derby Traditions: Mint Julep." Kentucky Derby & Oaks. Kentucky Derby 2014. 
Martin, Chuck. "Myth of the Mint Julep." Cincinnati Enquirer. 30 April 2003.
Nickell, Joe. The Kentucky Mint Julep (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky), 2003.

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