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The “Original” Mint Julep Recipe

Today, uncountable thousands of people will take fine, aged Bourbon and mix it with sugar water, ice, and mint.  This, put crudely, is what a Mint Julep is.

We here love our Juleps, but we think a quick historical fact is worth revisiting.  The Julep was invented some time around 1800.  At that time, there was no legal definition for Bourbon, and American producers mostly used barrels for transporting whiskey, not for aging it for years.

So?  Well, what that means is that the Julep of the day likely was born of necessity.  Drinking unaged white, corn whiskey straight is not especially appealing.  Drowning it in sugar water and mint (ice was not a household item back then) was a way to make it more palatable. (So was using it in fruit punch recipes.)

Accordingly, we humbly suggest that anyone who wants to make an “original” Mint Julep should follow a recipe that looks something like this: soak a few mint leaves in 3 ounces of corn whiskey, pestle the mint, pour in 3 ounces of simple syrup, and stir it vigorously.  Then drink up.  That is Julep drinking old style as our forefathers did.

Those readers who feel uneasy about making this trip down Heritage Lane can use an anachronistic but more pleasant tasting recipe like this one by Dale DeGroff:


  • 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 sprigs of Mint (Use tender, young sprigs- last longer and look better)
  • 2 oz. Bonded Bourbon

Muddle one sprig of mint in the bottom of a mixing glass with sugar syrup. Add the bourbon and strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Swirl with a bar spoon until the outside of the glass frosts. Garnish with a sprig of mint.



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