mint julep

mint julep

mint julep: see julep.
The mint julep is a mixed alcoholic drink, or cocktail, associated with the cuisine of the Southern United States.


A mint julep is traditionally made of four ingredients: mint, bourbon, sugar and water. In the use of sugar and mint, it is similar to the mojito. In preparing a mint julep, a fresh mint sprig is used primarily as a garnish, to introduce the flavor and aroma through the nose. If mint leaves are used in the preparation, they should just be very lightly bruised, if at all. However, proper preparation of the cocktail is commonly debated, as methods may vary considerably from one bartender to another. By another method, the mint julep may be considered as one of a loosely associated family of drinks called "smashes" (the brandy smash is another example, as well as the mojito), in which fresh mint and other ingredients are muddled or crushed in preparation for flavoring the finished drink. The step further releases essential oils and/or juices into the mixture, intensifying the flavor from the added ingredient or ingredients.

Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup. Traditional hand placement may have arisen as a way to reduce the heat transferred from the hand to the silver or pewter cup. Today, mint juleps are most commonly served in a tall old-fashioned glass, Collins glass, or highball glass with a straw.


The origins of the mint julep are clouded and may never be definitively known. The first appearance of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as "a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning." However, Davis did not specify that bourbon was the spirit used. The mint julep originated in the southern United States, probably during the eighteenth century. U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar in the famous Willard Hotel during his residence in the city. The term 'julep' is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine. The word itself is derived from Arabic julâb and Persian gulâb, meaning rosewater.

The Kentucky Derby

The mint julep is well-known as the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, a position it has held since 1938. During the 2007 event, more than 120,000 juleps were served at Churchill Downs. For over 18 years, the Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail has been the designated "official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby".

At the 2006 Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs served custom-made mint juleps at a cost of $1000 each. The mint juleps were served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, and were made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. The proceeds were used to support charitable causes dedicated to retired race horses.

In May 2008, Churchill Downs unveiled the world's largest mint julep glass. Churchill Downs, in conjunction with Early Times, commissioned the Weber Group to fabricate the tall glass (if the mint sprig is included). The glass was constructed from FDA food-grade acrylic, heated and molded into the shape of an official 2008 Derby glass. It had a capacity of , and distributed the mint juleps at the Derby with an elaborate pumping system concealed within the "stir straw".


The Kremlin Colonel is made with vodka instead of bourbon; the fresh mint flavoring differentiates the drink from the similar vodka stinger that uses crème de menthe.

A non-alcoholic form can be made with Crème de menthe and Limeade. The Walt Disney Company serves this version at two of their theme parks (Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland) in a small section themed after New Orleans.




  • Domine, David. Adventures in New Kentucky Cooking with the Bluegrass Peasant (Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing House), 2007 ISBN 091338397X
  • The Mint Julep: The Very Dream of Drinks, from the Old Receipt of Soule Smith, down in Lexington, Kentucky (Lexington, KY: The Gravesend Press), 1949. [reprinted in 1964]
  • Nickell, Joe. The Kentucky Mint Julep (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky), 2003. ISBN 0-8131-2275-9

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