History Dish Mondays: The "Real" Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby is upon us, and that means the start of mint julep season. Juleps are my hands down favorite drink; I’ve even purchased a few live mint plants so I can make them at a moment’s notice. Captain Maryatt, a 19th c British admirer of the American Julep, had this to say on the frosty drink:

“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.”

He also said that American ladies who drink juleps are “irresistible.”

The following recipe is from our old friend, drinksmaster Jerry Thomas. In his own words “This is the genuine method of concocting a Southern mint julep…”  I have used this recipe many times with great success, and highly recommend it for your Derby parties this Saturday.

The Real Georgia Mint Julep.
Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tending Guide, or How to Mix Drinks, 1862

(Use large bar-glass.) 
Take 1 tea-spoonful of white powered sugar. (or superfine)
¾ wine-glass (1.5 ounces) of Cognac brandy.
¾ wine glass (1.5 ounces) of peach brandy.
About 12 sprigs of the tender shoots of mint.

Put the mint in the tumbler, add the sugar, having previously dissolved it in a little water, then the brandy, and lastly, fill up the glass with shaved ice. Stir with a spoon but do not crush the mint.  Whiskey may be substituted for brandy if preferred


I have a few variations on this recipe:  Contrary to Thomas’ recommendation, I muddle the mint, powdered sugar, and water in the bottom of the glass before adding the alcohol.  You could also make a simple syrup instead.  Additionally, I one day dream of making my own peach brandy, but in the meantime I find the best substitution is a peach liquor.

Georgia Mint Julep on Foodista

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