The Inland Northwest is a long way from the American South and the birthplace of one of its signature sips: the classic mint julep. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the robust and refreshing cocktail here. Click here for our Double Mint Julep recipe just in time for the Kentucky Derby.
This time of year, mint is overflowing at regional farmers’ markets and aggressively tries to take over backyard herb gardens. If you find yourself with an abundance of mint—along with the need to cool off during long sultry summer days—consider this quick and easy-to-make cocktail, which features homemade fresh mint simple syrup on top of the traditional muddled fresh mint leaves.
Typically crafted with just four ingredients—sugar, mint, crushed ice and bourbon—the official drink of the Kentucky Derby traces its roots to Virginia
in the late 1700s. Back then, mint was a remedy for treating upset stomachs or digestive issues, and it wasn’t uncommon to imbibe a concoction of mint and sweetened spirits in the morning. Before the Civil War, rum or brandy was often used, along with Cognac, gin, whiskey or even sparkling wine. Today, bourbon is the go-to spirit for mint juleps.
Use your favorite, but note strong bourbon is better for standing up to the bright, crisp flavor of mint. Also, the ice will dilute the drink as it melts, even if you pre-chill your cup. Historically, mint juleps were served in pewter or silver cups, which form a lovely frost on the outside and help keep the cocktails cold.
When the drink was first being developed, ice was an expensive luxury. Presenting a guest with an overflowing cup of hand-crushed ice was a way of showing hospitality, respect and wealth. Mint juleps were drinks of the Southern elite.
Today, refrigerators crush ice for us, helping to make this quintessential Southern cocktail—once reserved for the upper-class—approachable and accessible for the modern masses. Mint juleps don’t have to be reserved for race day or the South, and neither does this extra-minty twist on the longtime refresher.
By Adriana Janovich