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No Kentucky Derby would be complete without the venerable Mint Julep on the first Saturday in May. According to the Derby Museum, Mint Julep became Churchill Down's signature drink in 1938 when they started to serve the drink in sourvenir glasses for 75 cents a drink. Today Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event.
Mint Julep first appeared in print in 1803 described as a "dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning." Some historians say Mint Julep was born in the early 1700s somewhere in east coast. First Mint Juleps weren't perhaps mixed with Bourbon, rather rye whiskey or rum or other available spirits.
Chris Morris from Woodford Reserve Bourbon says "Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives." When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area. The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe.
Mint Julep's popularity came to rest in the agricultural regions of the east and southeast, where farmers awakened at dawn. Morris says the julep was originally a morning drink as the spirited equivalent of coffee in today's society. "One sip and Pow! The farmers were ready to face the long day."
The main ingredient of the Mint Julep is Bourbon Whiskey. "The biggest change for the julep was the addition of American whiskey to the recipe," says Morris. "The julep was quickly transformed into a mixture of water, sugar, mint leaves, and good American whiskey."
For an extensive reading of Mint Julep, there's a great small book titled The Kentucky Mint Julep written by Joe Nickell. (ISBN 0-8131-2275-9) This book covers everything you want to know about the Derby's official drink, from various Mint Julep recipes to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
History of Mint Julep
Mint Julep became Churchill Down's signature drink in 1938 when they started to serve the drink in sourvenir glasses for 75 cents a drink. Today Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event.
More Derby Cocktails:
Crown of Roses