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History of Mint Julep

05-01-2018 By Nokulunga Msibi

In 1983, the mint julep became the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. Over 120 000 of these are served over the 2-day horse event!

It is not exactly clear where the mint julep comes from but most historians and Woodford reserve’s master distiller Chris Morris agree that the refreshing cocktail has Arab roots. Morris claims that “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." Mint replaced the rose petals and became what we know today as Mint Julep.

Mint Julep

This cocktail with its roots in the south of the US, is made from a mixture of bourbon, sugar, water and mint. It was once believed to have medicinal properties. Farmers in Virginia and Kentucky would enjoy a mint julep in the morning just before heading to the fields, claiming it gave them the shot of energy needed for the long day ahead.

Kentucky Derby Museum curator, Chris Goodlett told CNN “The mint julep has probably been with us since the very first Kentucky Derby when sterling silver julep cups were awarded as trophies to first-place jockeys”. Today, the governor of the state of Kentucky toasts to the winning jockey with a mint julep.

Try your hand at the official recipe from the Kentucky Derby using Old Forester Bourbon.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Old Forester Straight Bourbon Whisky
  • 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 Old Forester bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.


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