The mint julep is a classic cocktail, originating from the 1700s in the southern United States of America, where to be seen drinking a mint julep was indeed a sign of wealth and a marker of the elite. Many different aspects of the mint julep combine that set it out as a drink for the wealthy. The mint julep is always served with a good pile of ice, to have ice in the southern states of the USA at this time was quite a luxury and it was seen as an expensive commodity. Furthermore, the mint julep cocktail has always been traditionally served in the julep cup – again this would be made out of silver, again to show wealth but also to ensure the cup can be properly frosted for the best drinking experience.
Our own Mezclar julep cup is modelled on the original design with the single lip around the top, although ours are made out of a beautifully finished stainless steel rather than silver! This of course ensures good value for money with the Mezclar julep cups maintaining their quality and shine despite many a customer and many a wash.
Traditionally however the mint julep would not be served with a straw, however it was still served with a small mountain of ice. This is where the julep strainer emerged from, it was literally used to strain your drink but not as part of the cocktail making process but rather from the julep cup, to your mouth. The julep strainer was designed in such a way that it would sit snugly on top of the typical julep cup and allow the consumer to hold it in place whilst enjoying their perfectly curated mint julep…
The original recipe for a Mint Julep is as follows:
- 60ml of bourbon whiskey
- 4 mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons of water
In a 1908 Chicago Tribune article about the mint julep, Lexington’s Samuel Judson told the reporter: “Take a silver cup—always a silver cup. Fill it with ice pulverized to the fineness of snow. Bruise one tender little leaf of mint and stick it in the ice. Then dissolve a spoonful of sugar in about three-quarters of a Kentucky drink of good whisky and let the fluid filter through the ice to the bottom of the cup. Shake the cup slowly until a coating of a thick white frost forms on the outside. Trim with mint and hand to an appreciative gentleman.”
Although to this day it is still debated as to whether the original mint julep was made with bourbon or cognac, with many reports claiming that cognac was widely used to make the drink during the American Civil War. However it was 1938 when the Kentucky Derby Association & Churchill Downs (the racecourse) heavily started promoting the mint julep. The Kentucky Derby has always been a major horse race in the USA and is widely known in the states as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports!’. For many years the mint julep was even designated the official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby – it was in association with this famous sporting event that the mint julep would eventually gain huge popularity across the USA and the world.