Like most cocktails, the mint julep has a storied past. Automatically, we envision the refreshing drink coupled with big hats, pastel suits, and horse racing. I’m speaking, of course, about the Kentucky Derby. To celebrate the all-American celebration, we’ll take you back to the basics with a rendition of the julep as old as the derby itself.
Today, most people make the mint julep in its simplified, though still delicious, form:
1 tsp. superfine sugar
5-6 mint leaves
3 oz. bourbon
sprig of mint to garnish
Muddle mint leaves with superfine sugar and a splash of water in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with ice, top with bourbon, and garnish with mint sprig.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe—it’s a perfect staple for the race this weekend, but if you want to delve even deeper into the history of this drink, check out this recipe, first penned in 1857 as a prescription for warm weather:
2 oz. white sugar
½ oz. water
1 ½ oz. strong cognac
½ oz. spirits of rye
½ oz. rum
Properly made, the Prescription Julep requires fifteen discrete operations, but don’t worry, most are intuitive and incredibly simple!
(1) Put the sugar in a Collins glass. (2) Add the water. (3) Stir. (4) Add 5 to 6 mint leaves, trimmed of their stems. (5) Press lightly with a muddler. (6) Fill the glass with fine ice. (7) Add the cognac. (8) Add the rye. (9) Stir briefly. (10) Add more ice. (11) Add 3 to 4 sprigs of mint, pushing the stems down into the ice. (12) Pour the rum in over the back of a spoon held at the meniscus of the drink. (13) Insert the straw. (14) Smile.