Fine Kentucky bourbon priced as high as $75 a bottle needs a few precious ounces mixed with sprigs of mint, pure water, white sugar and crushed or shaved ice to make, sorry craft, the drink known to upscale horse racing fans the world over. Deft muddling seems to be a real key to making the drink go from sublime to spectacalicious. Bartenders the world over have their own tricks of the trade, but a Mint Julep stands in a class by itself. On Derby Day in 2007, over 120,000 Mint Julep cocktails were served to special guests and discerning locals alike.
From the Crusades to Europe to Virginia to Kentucky where ingenuity stepped in to modify the drink with bourbon, the Mint julep is international and timeless. Origins of the word julep derive from the Arabic word for rosewater, julâb and in Persian, gulâb. In Kentucky, those well traveled nineteenth century Virginians were the first to introduce the drink (photo Woodford Reserve)
On Central Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky stand spires more than century old atop an elegant white clapboard structure set in front of one of the world's most famous race tracks. Only the Rolling Stones have ever held a concert in its austere confines. Beside it only took four years and 121 million dollars to refurbish the iconic landmark.
Today, the drink of honor and the official (and trademarked) Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail ranges in price from under $10 to over $10,000 depending on one's economic circumstances. there are even special golden cups with diamonds and other precious stones embedded in the keepsake set in a box with a checkered backdrop. The big grandee of drinks is a charity auction item for Secretariat inspired retirees to have a place worthy of their feats at the track.
There shall be a plethora of hats from milliners inspired by only God in Her bonnet/His Fedora Knows for the 134th running for the roses. People get thirsty at the Kentucky Derby and it would be gauche not to imbibe upon one sweet sip of a Mint Julep. The drink might help because some of the hats have an inverse proportion to the size of ones head topped with accoutrements of varying designs of tulle twisted in origami shapes or dripping from brims.
Southern comfort is found in the spring as the thousand year old Mint Julep takes center stage. Kentucky was the first to amend the Julep with bourbon and declared it is now perfect. Joe Nickell covers the delicious drinkable topic from that state's rich tradition of distilling bourbon and captures the entire process in Kentucky Mint Julep.