Photos of all things food and drink from The Daily Meal
A mint julep is simply bourbon, simple syrup, and lots of fresh mint.
The Daily Meal's editors, contributors, and readers dig into some pretty great restaurants, festivals, and meals. There's not always enough time to give a full review of a restaurant or describe in depth why a place, its food, and the people who prepare it are noteworthy, so Snackshot of the Day does what photographs do best, rely on the image to do most of the talking.
Today's Snackshot is of a mint julep. For whatever reason, Mint Julep Day falls on May 30, not Derby Day, giving us two days out of the year to really appreciate them. Mint juleps are a traditionally Southern drink, dating back to the early 19th century. However, Kentuckians popularized the drink later because of their passion for bourbon and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.
Read more about The Daily Meal's Snackshot feature. To submit a photo, email jbruce[at]thedailymeal.com, subject: "Snackshots." Follow The Daily Meal's photo editor Jane Bruce on Twitter.
Snackshot of the Day: Mint Julep - Recipes
Date When Celebrated: This holiday is always held on May 30
Today is Mint Julep Day. It's a day to enjoy and savor this frosty and refreshing southern classic drink.
Mint Julep is an bourbon based alcoholic beverage. A related version of it, is gin based. It originated and is very popular today in areas south of the Mason-Dixon line in the United States. The roots of Mint Julep may have Arabic origin, where a similar drink called Julab was made with rose petals. Considered a sign of hospitality, Mint Juleps were first served in the early 1800's on Virginia plantations. It quickly spread in popularity across the south. In 1850, Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced it to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar.
Perhaps Mint Juleps are best known as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (1938). Today, over 120,00 Mint Juleps are served at the two day "Run for the Roses" event.
Did You Know: Mint Juleps were used medicinally for stomach maladies and other ailments.
Mint Juleps are a frosty cooler. We suspect the originator of this special day set May 30th as the date to celebrate them, as hot weather has arrived in the south by this time.
Related Holidays: Kentucky Derby Day
Today's Deep Thought: If a bottle of poison reaches its expiration date, is it more poisonous or no longer poisonous?
History and Origin of Mint Julep Day:
Our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day. It appears to have started around 2014.
We found an occasional incorrect reference to this as a "National" day. We found no presidential proclamation or act of congress, declaring it as a national day.
Ecards Send a free Ecard daily for just about any May calendar holiday, occasion, observance or event. Or, just for the fun of it!
What happened on this Day? This Day in History
Holiday Insights , where every day in May is a holiday, a bizarre or wacky day, an observance, or a special event. Join us in the daily calendar fun each and every day of the year.
Did You Know? There are literally thousands of daily holidays, special events and observances, more than one for every day of the year. Many of these holidays are new, and more are being created on a regular basis. Holidays in May are no exception. At Holiday Insights, we strive to thoroughly research and record the details of each one as completely and accurately as possible.
Mint Julep Recipe
Saturday is Derby Day, which means that across the country, celebratory sippers will be nipping at their mint juleps, and more than 80,000 of the drinks are expected to be served over Derby Weekend at Churchill Downs.
Tragically, most of these juleps are likely to suck.
With a formula almost as old as the republic, the mint julep is a product of an era in which things were done much more slowly. Somewhat labor-intensive to properly make, a good mint julep can't be rushed, and cranking them out by the hundreds, using prepared mixes and flavored syrups, can only result in sadness.
That's not to say you can't prepare these in quantity for a Derby party. If that's the course you want to take, I'd suggest relying instead on an assembly-line model of manufacture, rather than trying to incorporate all your ingredients in one bottle to simply be mixed with ice and a mint sprig garnish.
To ensure julep success, here are some tips:
- Take the term bruise to heart when approaching the mint. Smashing it vigorously with a muddler or wooden spoon will not only create a messy julep that will leave bits of mint stuck in your teeth, but will release the bitter flavors in the mint leaf. Instead, gently tap at the mint to release the aromatic oils, and swab the sides of the glass with the mint leaves to better disperse the flavor.
- Eschew mixes. You wouldn't use Velveeta when making a Mornay sauce, would you? Then don't use cheap shortcuts with your julep. The sweetened, mint-flavored whiskey you see at this time of year just isn't going to get you the same results as going with fresh. (Though you can speed up the process by premixing your sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then cooling before use.)
- The quality of your ice matters. You want the ice to be finely crushed, almost to a powder, but with some larger, pebble-sized pieces in the mix. You can use a kitchen ice crusher to get there, but you can also fold several ice cubes up in a clean kitchen towel, or in a purpose-built Lewis bag, and whale away at it with a mallet or rolling pin until the ice is pulverized. And keep the ice as cold as you can —a slushy julep is a sad julep.
- Don't get too caught up in the rigidity of what passes for tradition. Juleps have long been made with everything from cognac and rum to rye whiskey and bourbon, and many times with combinations of these spirits. Some minimalistic styles call for swabbing the glass with mint and then discarding it, while others leave the mint in the glass. Still others adorn the drink with the standard mint bouquet, along with sticks of pineapple and slices of orange. (Check out Daniel's article on julep variations for a few recipes to try along with the classic.)
The overall lesson: The julep is flexible. Make the drink the way it tastes best to you (and know that these points should be viewed as suggestions on how to make a tasty julep, rather than rules). Anyone who says you're committing heresy by dashing a flavorful rum atop your julep, mixing it with brandy rather than bourbon, or garnishing the drink with a pineapple stick should feel free to grab a beer instead.
Mint Tea Julep
The mint julep is a traditional summer cocktail that is rooted in the American south. It dates all the way back to the 1700’s which proves this drink has stood the test of time. This festive cocktail even became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1939.
To give this classic drink a present-day makeover while staying true to its roots, coconut sugar is used to create a rich minty simple syrup along with mint tea crystals. Coconut sugar is lower glycemic than table sugar and has a molasses flavor that resembles Demerara or brown sugar. If you are eliminating sugar altogether, erythritol sweetener is a good substitute that tastes like real sugar.
The herbal mint tea crystals are made with spearmint leaves for a true clean mint flavor. Mint tea helps support healthy digestion. This tea is caffeine-free so the recipe can be enjoyed day or night.
Once the syrup cools, it is mixed with muddled fresh mint leaves and bourbon. You can use any brand of whiskey, but to stay true to this recipe, Kentucky bourbon is recommended. A middle price range bourbon works just fine since it will be mixed and not sipped on its own. The cocktail is strained over crushed ice and finished with fresh mint right before enjoying.
This Is The Mint Julep Recipe Served At The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby has something for everyone, from an incredible history as a sporting event (since 1875!) to its pageantry and elaborate hats. But for us, it comes down to one thing: the mint julep.
And since the Derby is the perfect reason to host a bunch of friends for an afternoon of drinking and merriment, we spoke to executive chef David Danielson of Churchill Downs on how he and his team at Levy make juleps for the 400,000 people who come through their gates (including the exact recipe they use), and how you can easily prepare stellar juleps at home.
It’s a 2-minute race and a day of drinking juleps
Just to give you an idea of the scale of this operation, the Derby takes place on Saturday, May 4, but preparations begin in August of the previous year .
“We’ve got an army of people over here working to get everything geared up,” Danielson told HuffPost. He’s not exaggerating, as it takes over 1,000 workers to whip up the estimated 127,000 mint juleps for Derby Day. The premier race is billed as “the fastest two minutes in sports,” but drinking juleps is an all-day event. The bourbon-filled cocktails are being poured right after the gates open at 8 a.m., and people continue imbibing all the way until last call at 8:10 p.m.
What it takes to prepare over 127,000 juleps
As a refresher: a mint julep is a combination of bourbon, water, fresh mint, sugar and crushed ice (keep reading, because we’ve got great recipes for juleps at the end of the story). Churchill Downs uses 254,000 ounces of bourbon (or over 10,000 750 milliliter bottles), 300 crates of mint (about 4,000 pounds of locally sourced stuff from Louisville, Kentucky’s Dohn Gardens) and 60,000 pounds of ice to make their juleps. You probably won’t need nearly as much for your home setup. Nonetheless, Danielson has tips from his nine years of working the Derby to help you out.
Find the right bourbon
If you think any type of bourbon will suffice for a mint julep, think again. Woodford Reserve is in the Derby’s signature julep, and Danielson cited a few reasons why. “Woodford is a very smooth bourbon,” he told HuffPost. “It has a great flavor profile and delicious caramel notes.” Most importantly, it mixes well with the mint and sugar. Other bourbons can either be too spicy or too mellow for the refreshing spring cocktail.
Make the majority of the cocktail ahead of time
When you’re making drinks in large quantities, you want to be sure you’re able to make consistently tasty drinks at a fast pace. Many recipes (including the one for a classic Woodford mint julep found below) call for tiny spoonfuls of sugar, but it’s not super fun to be scooping sugar behind a bar when you’d rather just be hanging out and drinking.
That’s why the Churchill Downs folks instead replace a scoop of sugar with mint simple syrup. “We make a mint simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water. We bring it to a boil and add mint to it. Then we let it steep and strain it off,” Danielson said. That’s a simple enough recipe that even you should try it for your Derby party. We’ve got you covered with more detail on making simple syrup .
Once that’s done, mix a big quantity of bourbon with your simple syrup and throw it in the fridge. When your friends and family arrive, your job becomes exceedingly simple. “ Take your ice out, pour [this boozy mixture] over top, garnish it, and you’re literally off to the races, my friend,” Danielson said.
Crushed ice, accept no substitutes
“Historically, juleps were a sign of prosperity,” Danielson noted. “Ice was a commodity, and so when you wanted to entertain or show people you were in society, you showed people you had ice. If you had crushed ice piled high in a glass, you were really doing well.”
Show all your friends you’re also doing great by using crushed ice. Not only does it look fantastic should you want to Instagram your julep, but it gives you a chance to take out all your frustrations in the making of this drink. If you can’t find crushed ice at the liquor store, you can create it by buying a regular bag of ice and smashing it up with a hammer. Or just using a strong blender.
Treat the mint right
You might be tempted to buy fresh mint from the grocery store and store it in your fridge’s crisper drawer, but Danielson recommends treating mint with more respect. “Put an inch or so of cold water at the bottom of a cup,” he said. “Make sure the stems are sitting in the water.” When you’re ready to serve the cocktail, use an entire sprig of mint, which should have about six to seven leaves on it.
A highball glass is more than suitable
Yes, there sure are silver julep cups you can purchase online and elsewhere, but Danielson said not to sweat it if you don’t have time to buy them. “A skinny, tall, 8-ounce [highball glass] is a great glass for a julep,” he said.
We’ve got two recipes you can check out. The first is the one served at Churchill Downs, and the second is Woodford Reserve’s original recipe. Cheers!
When it's Derby Day, mint juleps are definitely on the menu, with somewhere around 120,000 of the minty sweet bourbon drinks served over the two days at Churchill Downs, though Louisville locals will tell you that it's really a tourist thing.
Doesn't matter. Like the big, brimmed hats that have found their way into tradition, so has the drink, and while Georgia says it was the originator of the Mint Julep, Kentucky lays claim to its popularity for that reason. Despite all that, in the summer's evening and dripping heat and humidity along these Gulf Coast states, you're bound to find somebody, somewhere, consuming a julep, and almost every southern state has its own way of making them.
- Start with an ice cold glass - use a traditional silver julep glass, old fashioned, Collins, or a highball glass, and either jiggle with cubes to get it good and cold, or freeze it before mixing.
- Always use fresh mint and use the top, more tender leaves, stripping them off of the stem.
- You don't have to use your best aged whiskey, but use a good bourbon - 86 to 90 proof.
- Use shaved ice or crushed ice, never ice cubes.
- After a gentle muddle of the mint leaves, add a pile of ice and shove a straw into the glass right into the sweetened mint, cutting the straw off right above the rim so that it is short. Add the liquor, and the remaining ice, and touching only the top or bottom rim of the glass, stir vigorously until heavily frosted.
- Garnish with a nice sprig of mint, positioned right at the straw, so that you inhale the essential oils of the mint every time you sip.
Recipe: Mint Julep
- 1 dozen fresh mint leaves , plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 2 tablespoons of simple syrup
- 2 ounces of Bourbon
- 1 ounce of Dark Rum
- Crushed ice
Chill a traditional silver julep glass, old fashioned, Collins, or highball glass by placing into the freezer, or jiggling some ice in the glass. Remove ice and lightly muddle the mint and simple syrup together in the bottom of the glass. Top with some of the ice. Stick a straw all the way through the ice to the bottom of the glass where the mint is, then cut the straw off short, just above the top of the glass. Top the ice with the bourbon, then the rum, the remaining ice, and holding the glass along the bottom or top edge, stir vigorously, until the outside of the glass is heavily frosted. Garnish with a sprig of mint right next to the straw so that you get a nice whiff of mint with each sip.
By the Pitcher: Muddle about 1 cup of mint leaves together with 3/4 cup of simple syrup, more or less to taste, in the bottom of a pitcher. Add 1-1/2 cups of bourbon and 3/4 cup of rum. Add straw to chilled cups and fill with crushed ice, pouring mixture over the top. Makes about 6 depending on size of glasses. Garnish with mint as above.
One dozen mint leaves
1 tablespoon of simple syrup or confectioners sugar
2 ounces of Bourbon
2 ounces of Triple Sec
Generous splash of Vodka
Mint sprigs for garnish, optional
Put the mint leaves into the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the simple syrup and lightly muddle the leaves a few times to release the oils of the mint. Add the bourbon, triple sec, vodka, and the ice cubes and shake until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass, garnish if desired and serve immediately.
Can substitute 1 to 2 teaspoons of a clear creme de menthe for the fresh mint leaves.
1/4 cup of Gin
1/4 cup of Club Soda
12 mint leaves, plus a couple sprigs for garnish
1/2 tablespoon honey or other sweetener
Loosen honey by microwaving on high for about 10 seconds. In the bottom of a cold glass, gently muddle the mint leaves. Add the gin, club soda and honey stir and top with crushed ice. Garnish with sprig of mint.
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Step 1: Crush The Ice
Place ice in lewis bag , close the flap. Pound ice in the bag with the hammer until crushed. Set aside.
Step 2: Assemble Mint Julep
In a julep cup , muddle the mint and simple syrup. Add bourbon and pack tightly with 1 cup of crushed ice. Stir until the cup is frosted. Top with 1 cup of crushed ice, or with enough to form an ice dome in the cup. Garnish with mint leaves.
Best Mint Julep Recipe
This easy and simple cocktail is probably the best Mint Julep recipe you will ever try. It’s a refreshing cocktail that’s perfect for watching the Kentucky Derby – whether it’s in person or at a viewing party.
Recently, I spent the day with Jackie from WNEP’s Home & Backyard creating fun Horse Cookies and this quick Mint Julep recipe. We were all gussied up in our Sunday best, complete with pearls and hats making some fun treats to help celebrate the Kentucky Derby.
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Friday Cocktail Hour: The Mint Julep
With just three ingredients and crushed ice this is one of the best cocktails there is.
Today we’ll be drinking mint juleps, of course. A julep, of course, is a category of cocktail primarily defined by the way the spirit is served, over crushed ice in a julep cup or Tom Collins glass (which I’ve always called a highball). Simon Diffords describes a number of them here.
The bourbon mint julep is best known, customrary on this day of the Kentucky Derby, and one of the older cocktails on record. I loved the following from an unsigned article on liquor.com.
The Mint Julep gained prominence in the southern United States during the 18th century, and it first appeared in print in 1803 in John Davis’ book “Travels of Four and a Half Years in the United States of America.” He wrote that the Mint Julep is a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” An ice-cold whiskey drink is certainly one way to start your day.
I’ll stick to a poached egg on toast in the morning, I think. But today, on May Day, for the actual Derby, proper mint juleps.
There are many ways to prepare them, none of them wrong except not using crushed ice. I've tried all kinds of variations but the standard muddling is still the best. I prefer simply syrup as opposed to sugar. If I'm making more than one, I'll mix with muddled mint in a shaker, muddle glasses as well with mint, fill them with crushed ice, shake and pour, garnish with mint, serve with straw, which makes it much easier to drink.