It is the KENTUCKY DERBY today, and you know what that means!! Mint Julep season is kicking off, and in my mind, that means summer has arrived! Oh, how I love a mint julep!!
The below quotation is from a Captain Marryatt, a “gallant” English seaman with a penchant for the “nectareous drink” we Americans call a julep. The Captain’s adulation of this cocktail was reprinted in How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas (1862),
“I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is with the thermometer at 100 one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was invented and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70… I learned how to make them and succeeded pretty well: Put into a tumbler about a dozen sprigs of the tender shoots of mint upon them put a spoonful of white sugar and equal proportions of peach and common brandy so as to fill it up one third or perhaps a little less. Then take rasped or pounded ice and fill up the tumbler… As the ice melts, you drink. I once overheard two ladies talking in the next room to me, and one of them said ‘Well if I have a weakness for any one thing it is for a mint julep!’– a very amiable weakness and proving her good sense and good taste. They are in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible “
Captain Marryatt’s American Mint Julep
Adapted from How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas (1862)
1 heaping teaspoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon water
5-6 sprigs of mint
1.5 ounces Cognac (whiskey can be substituted here with equally pleasing results)
1.5 ounces Peach Brandy
Place mint, sugar and water in the bottom of a julep cup or rocks glass. Muddle until the flavor of the mint has been released. Fill up glass with crushed or shaved ice, then add alcohol. Stir vigorously until the outside of the glass is foggy with condensation and cold to the touch. Enjoy.
This julep is my Derby standby. Allow yourself the pleasure of the addition of Peach Brandy (or a teaspoon of peach bitters) to your everyday Julep routine. You won’t regret it.
Jerry Thomas’s Mint Julep
How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas (1862)
This is Thomas’s rather decadent first entry in the “Julep” chapter of his book.
Place half the mint mint, sugar and water in the bottom of a julep cup or rocks glass. Muddle until the flavor of the mint has been released. Fill up glass with crushed or shaved ice, then add Cognac. Stir vigorously until the outside of the glass is foggy with condensation and cold to the touch. Use you stir or spoon to pull out the mint springs; insert fresh sprigs into the ice with their stems downward. Arrange berries and orange slices within this mint bouquet, pour the rum over top, and sprinkle with sugar.
This was the first time I’ve tried Thomas’s julep recipe: Drunk through a straw, the cocktail is actually pretty amazing, albeit a little over the top. The straw is necessary, so you don’t whack yourself in the face with mint every time you take a sip. The liquor is sweet and very, very minty. I think I’ve been skimping on the mint in my juleps: one should pack that glass full for the best flavor. The fruit on top, drizzled in rum and sprinkled with sugar, is also special treat.
But one needn’t be so extravagant in their julep enjoyment. Don’t just savor a Julep this Saturday, but sip them all season long. Remember: the Mint Julep is the drink of the summer!