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Juleps to the Starting Gate. The Drink is on!!

April 22, 2009

I love Mint Juleps. A true Southern treat most often than not only consumed on Kentucky Derby Day (May 2nd this year).  That is too bad.  I, myself, can count more than one life changing moment where I have had this quintessential cup in my hand. 


 “Juleps”started as a pharmaceutical mix, where sugar and herbs were mixed to make medicine more palatable (the word itself comes from Arabic around 1400 B.C.).  Nothing being sacred to the imbiber, someone grabbed the idea of using mint and sugar, mixing it with whiskey, and viola, the Mint Julep was born.


duelThere are legends of duels happening over the proper way to make a julep, and I have had my share of arguments to this fact as well, only one leading to the brink of violence.  And though some may disagree, there are some key components to a great julep. 


First is the booze.  We could go on and on and on about whether the first julep was rye, brandy, or bourbon.  I’m not gonna touch this argument with a ten foot swizzle stick. But being a Southern Boy by birth, I will say that bourbon is my liquor of choice. 


Next is the cup.  I insist on my julep being served in a silver julep cup.  The first Mint Julep was not served in this vessel, however, it is as essential as any other ingredient.  Why, you may ask?  Metal is a conductive material.  And silver is a superconductor that will keep this libation cold for a longer period of time which is a good thing since the Mint Julep is meant to be sipped over a long period of time.  And if you have ever been in the Deep South during the summer, you need no more explanation!!


Lastly is the ice.  Gotta be crushed. Can’t be any other way.  And don’t  make me reach for my pistol.  No, just kidding.


Now the recipe:


dsc022822Mint Julep


6-8 Mint leaves

3oz Bourbon

1 oz 1:1 simple syrup

Crushed Ice


GENTLY muddle the mint with just a touch of water (no more than ½ teaspoon).  If you tear the leaves or they bruise, you going too hard.  Add the bourbon, then the crushed ice.  Pack the ice in tight, ya’ll.  Now pour the simple syrup over the top of the ice mound. Don’t stir it! Gravity will do he work for you. Let Nature take it’s course here.  Garnish the top of the drink with more mint and a short straw that is just barely taller than your mint garnish.


Southern Sipping:

The julep is most properly sipped, and the straws should be just above the mint, so that the tippler gets a good whiff of mint with each draw from the straw.


dsc02273The cup should be held with the thumb on the lip of the julep cup and the four fingers placed around the bottom, so the hand does not warm the drink during its long enjoyment.



Finally, the julep cup should not be held with the non-dominant hand, so that one may still greet others without having to move their libation to the other hand, or greet another with a warm hand.


No didn’t make this up.  It was passed on to me by an old Southern gentleman during a discussion in the first bar I tended.  Take it or leave it, but personally I like it.


There are planty of variations out there for the julep   A favorite of mine is the Georgia Julep, which adds a little peach brandy to the mix. Another twist is changing up the sweetener.  Using maple syrup or Demarara sugar is awesome!  Also orange syrup (equal parts honey and orange juice) is a sweet treat (for more ideas chick here).  


And Tales of the Cocktail, a huge mixology event in New Orleans, has just announced thewinner of the Offiical Cocktial Contest:  Maksym Pazunuak’s Creole Julep.


Whatever you do, do not leave this libation to lie dormant and only to be visited once a year.  A mint Julep can be enjoyed on any occasion………………. like the drop of a sword pick!


So, Happy Derby Day.  Hope the bet you lay pays, and I’ll see you on the veranda, julep in hand.





Y’all come back now, ya hear!!












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