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Mint Juleps Were Originally Used To Cure Upset Stomachs

National Mint Julep Day on May 30th each year sets up a refreshing toast to summer. 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.

  • 14th Century – The word julep was used as early as the late 14th century to refer to “a syrupy drink in which medicine was given.”
  • 1700s – In the late 1700’s, Mint Juleps were used to treat upset stomachs
  • 18th Century – Some believe the mint julep originated in the southern United States sometime during the 18th century.
  • 1803 – 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.”
  • 1850 – Henry Clay introduced the drink to Washington, D.C. in 1850.  The U.S. senator from Kentucky supposedly made the mint julep popular in Washington, D.C. at the Round Robin Bar.
  • 19th Century – During the 19th century, Americans also enjoyed a gin-based julep.
  • 19th Century – Although the drink is generally thought to have hit its popular stride in the 19th Century, Andrew Jackson’s earliest biographer (James Parton) claims in his book that Ol’ Hickory (long before he was a famous general or president) “were drinking quantities of mint-julep” while he and an acquaintance gambled on a cockfight in Nashville in 1795!
  • 1936 – Scarlett O’Hara approved of the smell. That the mint julep is an icon of Dixie was not lost upon Margaret Mitchell when she knocked out her blockbuster Civil War novel Gone With The Wind in 1936.
  • 1983 – It became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1983.
  • 2008 – Churchill Downs unveiled the world’s largest mint julep glass (6-foot  tall).
  • Each year, Churchill Downs serves almost 120,000 mint juleps over the two days of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.
  • The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.
  • At Churchill Downs Premium versions of the drink are served in gold-plated cups with silver straws for $1000,
  • 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.
  •  Proper preparation of the cocktail is commonly debated, as methods may vary considerably from one bartender to another.
  • The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.
  • 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.
  • Woodford Reserve’s master distiller, Chris Morris, points out that “centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called Gulab, 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.” In the Mediterranean, indigenous mint replaced the rose petals and the “mint julep” rose in popularity.
  • Theodore Roosevelt slyly used mint juleps as an enticement to get his various cabinet members to play tennis with him. In fact, TR’s advisors were sometimes referred to as “the Tennis Cabinet”—though one muses that “the Mint Julep Cabinet” would not have been entirely far-fetched.
  • Married to a southern belle, F. Scott Fitzgerald was certainly no stranger to the cocktail (though he himself probably preferred a good Gin Rickey). In fact, what is now his most famous novel—The Great Gatsbyworks the mint julep into a simmering hotel-room argument at the Plaza between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan’s husband, Tom.
  • Juleps and Similar Libations Were Called Antifogmatics and Were Often Consumed in the Morning.  American author Samuel Goodrich explains that “in the Southern states, where the ague is so common and troublesome a malady, where fogs are frequent and dews heavy, it has grown the custom to fortify the body from attacks of the disease, by means of Juleps, or what are called antifogmatics.”

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Juleps Were Called Antifogmatics and Were Consumed in the Morning.

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Sources:

National Day Calendar

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Town and Country Magazine

Always the Holidays

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