The Mint Julep – a refreshing concoction of bourbon, sugar, water, crushed ice, and fresh mint – is today widely considered to be of southern American origin, associated particularly with the Kentucky Derby.
In fact, the invention and documentation of most cocktails is attributed to the States. In most cases though, the Mint Julep not excluded, a cocktail’s history starts beyond the American continent.
‘Julab’ was an Arabic drink, centuries ago, made with crushed ice and rose petals. From there, it traversed into the Mediterranean, where the residents replaced the rose with mint and sugar syrup, and so the ‘Mint Julep’ grew in popularity throughout Europe, with each region experimenting with mixing it with their locally preferred spirit.
Once it reached the southern continental US, the locals augmented the recipe via American Bourbon.
This addition was cemented by the drink’s overwhelming popularity in the vast agricultural areas, as the dawn-waking farmers preferred the Julep to their morning coffee for a spirited start-of-day energy boost. This, combined with the Julep becoming the Kentucky Derby’s 1st of May refreshing tradition, solidified its (partially false) American heritage.
Nonetheless, the Julep is one of the classics, an ancestor of many other spin-offs, and, as with most cocktails, derives its cultural heritage from a highly diverse ethnic background. All this aside, it’s a pretty refreshing, easy-to-make drink.
To prepare it yourself, simply crush some mint leaves with a teaspoon of sugar (or golden syrup) and a bit of water in a glass, fill the glass with crushed ice and add a shot of bourbon/whisky, and serve with mint.
To have the Julep prepared for you, head over to Cook’s of Stirling. They’ve also got special two-course lunch options for under £10, and fun special occasion set menus. Above all though, they make a decent Mint Julep.