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The Mint Julep
By Kevin Brown

Regarding the Mint Julep, who among us is not a southern sympathizer? This refreshing concoction, the great-grandfather of all infusions, is perhaps the most misunderstood of all cocktails. Although the Julep's origins are lost in antebellum antiquity, it almost certainly originated south of the Mason-Dixon line. Mixed with the finest aged and mellow rye, the distillation of which is almost a forgotten art, the Julep is a natural combination of the South's finest elements: warm summer days, good whiskey and naturally growing mint.

Before we delve into the logistics of the Julep, let us dispel any misunderstandings. A Mint Julep has but four ingredients: rye, mint, ice, and sugar. Perversions of the Mint Julep, manufactured with bourbon, gin, rum, and even brandy, may be tasty indeed, but should never be confused with the real thing. So be careful, if you order a Mint Julep and see the bartender reach for pineapples, crême de menthe, or some sort of green syrup, cancel the order immediately, for you are dealing with an ignoramus scarcely capable of serving up a Bud Lite. A proper Julep is a simple infusion that will well reward the patient purist.

My own great-great-grandfather, a southern gentleman of some distinction, recorded his prized recipe on the back of a Confederate note, which he sandwiched between the venerable leaves of our family bible, Timothy I:23. 


Click to hear the song One Mint Julep

Xavier Cugat
Sam Butera
Jelly Roll Morton
Count Basie
Sarah Vaughn
Clarence Gatemouth Brown

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The building of a Julep is a majestic rite, a divine ritual that must be approached with reverence. Begin with ice fresh from the cellar. Carefully wrapping the ice in a coarse, clean cloth, smash with an ice hammer into a fine powder. Set this aside. Now, pick your mint. Choose from the youthful sprigs, for they hold the sweetest flavor. Carefully separate the stems from the leaves. Drop these into a tall silver mixing glass. Add three teaspoons of powdered sugar, then the ice, then your finest reserve rye and stir. [Here he refers not to confectioners' sugar, but superfine powered  sugar.] Continue for twenty minutes, finally straining the contents into two derby cups. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. This recipe is inviolate.

-Jacobey S. Evans III

Elaboration is most likely necessary regarding certain aspects of this recipe, most specifically the "derby cup." Discard your standard glassware; this is no affair for that insulated crystalline material. Instead, reach deep into your locked cabinets for the family silver. There you may find a small silver (or, worst-case scenario, pewter) cup.  This is your derby cup. If you are fortunate enough to find one, know that you are born of distinguished stock, and that at least one of your forefathers (or mothers, as it were) was an individual of taste and refinement. The derby cup is a simple affair constructed of silver or pewter of approximately 3.5"d x 6"h. The natural conductivity of these heavy metals distributes the icy coolness throughout the drink. The derby cup is an absolute must for any serious Julep drinker. If you do not have such a vessel, there are but three options:

1.  Don't drink a Mint Julep
2.  Scour the antique shops  
3.  Order one from Shirley Pewter at

Another concern to the Julep drinker of today is finding a source for quality rye. Good rye is much smoother and more mellow than bourbon, and prior to Prohibition, American rye was the preferred drink. This is why so many classic cocktails, from the Julep to the Old Fashioned to the Manhattan, require rye. Today, however, rye is very rare and limited to only three distillers: Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Old Potero. Surprisingly, the best among these, Jim Beam, is also the cheapest. Another note of caution: Some uneducated oaf of a sports bartender may try to pass off Canadian whiskey as rye. It is not. Canadian whiskey has the same percentage of rye as bourbon, only about 33 percent. Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery also produces a rye that, although a very good whiskey product, is "rye" in name only. 

Now that the matter is clear, here's to a truly civilized invention. Enjoy your summer.


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