Cocktail Party: The Mint Julep


Hello, hello? Is this thing on?

Greetings! Welcome back to Delicious History. After a few minor technical setbacks I’m here to give you all the historical goss on the lovely and refreshing Mint Julep.

So, we’re onto cocktail number five. At this point of the evening the heavy weights are attempting to chat up a hottie/anyone in the corner so they don’t have to take the train home. Meanwhile, the light weights are lying outside on the grass crying down the phone to their mums, apologising for all the horrible things they have done in their lives. This is something I have seriously done – just replace ‘grass’ with ‘driveway’ and ‘phone’ with ‘parents standing on the front porch hanging their heads in shame’.

Tegan’s Tip – Never let a seventeen year work colleague serve you ten wines in an hour at a Christmas party. On a Monday night. In February.

I need these glasses in my life

The mint julep is predominantly famous for being the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. The popularity of the drink at the racetrack began in 1938 when it became the official cocktail of the Derby. Back in those days, the drink set the fans back a cool 75c. Today, a mint julep in a collectors glass starts at $1000.

Seventy five of these commemorative glasses were made earlier this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Derby. Sixty Five were made from pewter and were hand engraved with a racing scene. They also came with a sterling silver drinking straw. You think that sounds impressive? Oh no, those were only the thousand dollar plebeian glasses that had been fashioned for the peasants.

Ten of the glasses were made entirely from sterling silver, plated in 24 karat gold and featured a diamond horseshoe with 43 diamonds totaling approximately one carat. Furthermore, a jeweler selected and set each diamond by hand.

Just, damn.

The origin of the Julep goes back much further than the Derby though. In fact, it doesn’t even begin in the USA. Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab,  which was made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance their quality of life. When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area.

The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe, particularly in agriculture regions. This also happened when it was introduced to the USA. Americans also enjoyed juleps made with genever, an aged gin, during the nineteenth century. However bourbon-based juleps have decisively eclipsed gin-based ones in recent years.

The julep was originally a morning drink – a spirited equivalent to coffee. Apparently,  one sip enabled farmers and workmen alike to face the day. I must say that I adore how many of cocktails have been used for medicinal purposes or as an excuse to drink in the morning. It would be great to walk into work and buy a $4 cocktail off my coffee guy. “Hmm one Julep and a croissant thanks, Emilio. No, I’ll definitely go the large. It’s feeling like a double shot day.”

With that steady slide into alcoholism, let’s get to the recipe!

Ingredients

90ml Bourbon Whisky
4 – 6 sprigs Mint Leaves
Granulated Sugar, to taste

Method

Place mint, sugar, and a small amount of bourbon into the bottom of a mixing glass. Gently muddle and then let it stand for a couple of minutes to allow the mint flavour to be released. Strain and pour into a julep cup (A glass with a pewter base. Or silver if you’re a rich bastard), rotating to coat the sides. Fill with ice and then add the remaining whisky. Garnish with a small mint sprig.

Fun Fact – Mint juleps are traditionally served in pewter based glasses and held by the handle or rim in order to maintain optimum frost.

Tomorrow – A Dessert Cocktail!

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