“A mint julep is not a product of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion.”
– Lt. Gen. S.B. Buckner, Jr., 1937
On Saturday, we’ll again be treated to the “fastest two minutes in sports” – The Kentucky Derby. And we’ll be celebrating it with a treat that has become synonymous with the race itself – the Mint Julep.
The Mint Julep has a long, and one might even say fabled, history as the sweet and genteel cocktail of horse racing’s most famous event. We’ve included four vintage Mint Julep formulas below for your consideration. But consider this:
Is the Mint Julep the “Peeps” of cocktails?
As I’m sure you know, “Peeps” are those sickeningly-sweet, bunny or baby chick-shaped marshmallow treats only seen in Easter Baskets on Easter Sunday. In fact, for the other 364 days of the year they are reviled and actively avoided. Think about it, Mint Juleps are sweeter than most cocktails and are generally only imbibed on one Saturday in early May. On the other 51 Saturdays every year, some other – any other – cocktail is the drink of choice, even in Louisville.
In any case, the official news agency of the Kentucky Derby reports that over 120,000 Mint Juleps will served at Churchill Downs during the festivities surrounding the race. And the Early Times Ready-to-Serve Mint Julep has been “The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby” for more than 18 years.
Our advice is to avoid the pre-bottled Early Times Mint Julep cocktail unless you’ll be watching the derby from someplace where mixing a fresh one would be inconvenient – like the basecamp of Everest.
Instead try one of our recommended Mint Julep recipes below, all of which have stood the test of time. (And in defense of Early Times, we’ve included their “mix-from-scratch” Mint Julep recipe as well. It’s actually very good, particularly in its use of simple syrup rather than sugar).
Mint Julep – From Fine Cocktails Made Easy (Early-50s)
We like how this recipe calls for you to “muddle” the mint leaves much like you would for a Mojito.
Mint Julep – From Fleischmann’s Mixer’s Manual (Mid-50s)
A similar recipe that has a bit more actual booze.
Mint Julep – From Barmate (1964)
The race-day favorite from a Southern Comfort cocktail guide distributed in the December 1964 issue of Playboy Magazine. Add a swinging touch to your Julep by using Southern Comfort instead of plain old Bourbon.
Bacardi Mint Julep – From How to Make Wonderful Cocktails (Mid-50s)
Bacardi adds a Latin twist to the Mint Julep, not only by substituting rum for Bourbon but also for a method of preparation that has you packing a Tom Collins glass in ice for no less than five minutes.
Early Times Mint Julep – From KentuckyDerby.com*
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Early Times Kentucky Bourbon
Silver Julep Cups
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
One final comment: Purists say a Mint Julep should only be served in a sterling silver Mint Julep Cup. We actually have a pair of these (actually cheap silver-plate versions made in India). We’re not sure how we got them. If you don’t a silver cup, you can also enjoy a Julep in glass.
That ends our tribute to this once-a-year favorite. So now, as post time approaches and the trumpets begin to blare you’ll be ready to enjoy the derby in true Southern style.
Place you bets.
Ours is on this tasty antebellum treat – to win!
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