National Mint Julep Day is observed annually on May 30. Each year, people around the country gather for a glass of mint julep! This refreshing southern classic is a traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby.
A classic mint julep is made with a mint leaf, bourbon, sugar and water. In the Southern states, where mint julep is more associated with the cuisine, spearmint is the mint of choice. Preparation of the drink may vary from one bartender to another.
- It is believed that the mint julep originated in the southern United States sometime during the 18th century.
- The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.
- During the 19th century, Americans also enjoyed a gin-based julep.
- Each year almost 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.
- A mint julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint leaf, bourbon, sugar, and water.
- Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used in Southern states, and in Kentucky in particular.
- In the use of sugar and mint, it is similar to the mojito.
- Proper preparation of the cocktail is commonly debated, as methods may vary considerably from one bartender to another.
- The mint julep may be considered as one of a loosely associated family of drinks called “smashes” (the brandy smash is another example, as well as the mojito), in which fresh mint and other ingredients are muddled or crushed in preparation for flavoring the finished drink.
- Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup.
- The first appearance of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”
- It takes 7,800 liters of bourbon and 2,250 pounds of locally grown mint to make the 120,000 Mint Juleps sold at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby weekend.
- In May 2008, Churchill Downs unveiled the world’s largest mint julep glass. Churchill Downs, in conjunction with Brown-Forman, commissioned the Weber Group to fabricate the 6-foot tall glass (7.5-foot if the mint sprig is included). The glass was constructed from FDA food-grade acrylic, heated and molded into the shape of an official 2008 Derby glass. It had a capacity of 206 US gallons, and distributed the Early Times mint juleps at the Derby with an elaborate pumping system concealed within the “stir straw.”