Sip of the week: The Mint Julep
Rich in history and taste, the Mint Julep is the perfect drink to bid adieu to the cold winter weather and say hello to the warmer days ahead.
Being falsely appreciated as a breakfast drink in the 1800s for protection against Malaria, the Mint Julep is one of the oldest mixed drinks still being consumed today. Originally only served in a silver cup, this rejuvenating drink dates back several centuries to 1803 when it was first mentioned in a book by John Davis. He described it as, “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it.”
Its popularity only grew from there. In 1938, Churchill Downs, host of the Kentucky Derby, designated the Mint Julep as the official drink to enjoy at the horse races. Every year since this designation, about 120,000 juleps are served during the two-day race.
In 2008, the host of the Kentucky Derby unveiled a 7.5 foot tall glass containing 206 gallons of the revitalizing concoction. This drink served about 5,000 happy patrons and went down in history as being the largest cup of Mint Julep ever created.
Extra-premium Mint Juleps were created in 2006 by Downs, and were sold at the race at a price of $1,000. The cups were gold plated and made from the finest imported ingredients from around the world. Even the ice was made from spring water in the Bavarian Alps. Gluttony aside, all the proceeds made from the sales of this drink were donated to a non-profit organization dedicated to helping retired race horses.
Nearly every bartender knows how to make a Mint Julep, but it is more fun to make at home with a few simple ingredients. This two-step drink involves making your own syrup, which is much more effortless than it sounds.
The first step is optional, but highly recommended. By making your own mint syrup, you are not only saving money, but you are getting a more fresh and natural taste. Mix one cup of sugar, one cup of water, and one bunch of mint sprigs. Boil for about five minutes and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. If you don’t have a month to spare, you can always buy a bottle of mint syrup.
The most important ingredient in the Mint Julep is, of course, mint. The fresher the mint, the better the taste. Crush a sprig of mint in the bottom of a frosted silver cup, or more conventionally, a highball glass filled with crushed or cubed ice. Mix two tablespoons of mint syrup with two tablespoons of water and two ounces of Bourbon. Add a sprig of mint as a garnish and you’re ready to enjoy your timeless drink.
One unofficial rule to drinking a Mint Julep is to never drink it with a straw. By drinking straight from the glass, you are able to smell the aroma of fresh mint, which adds to the overall experience.