Mint Julep

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A Mint Julep is a mixed drink which consists of Rum or Brandy, Mint Leaves, Sugar, with water/ ice/ crushed ice.

See also: Kentucky Mint Julep.

Note: Julep can also be spelt Julip, or Julap.


Etymology of the word Julep

c.1400, a syrupy drink in which medicine was given, from O.Fr. julep, from M.L. julapium, from Ar. julab, from Pers. gulab "rose water," from gul "rose" + ab "water." Sense of "alcoholic drink flavored with mint" is first recorded 1787.

Historical References

According to David Herpin

What a wonderful drink, even today, few drinks hold a candle to this primary mixed drink. Not surprisingly, there is more information on juleps than any one person should care to learn. The problem is there is much conflicting evidence regarding the julep, so let's set the record straight.

Here is an early printing of the drink: Representative American plays - Page 325 by Arthur Hobson Quinn in 1765

"That extra mint julep has put the true pluck in me. Now for it! (Aside.) Mr. Tiffany, Sir — you needn't think to come over me, Sir"

Famous New Orleans Drinks by Stanley Clisby Arthur claims the first julep is the San Domingo brought to Louisiana in 1793, and it was one of rum. He also mentions the word julep dates to as early as 1400. He may not of been that far off. Here is an early printing from Famous New Orleans Drinks:

"An Ordinary Virginian rises about six o' clock. He then drinks a julep made of rum, and sugar, but very strong." in 1787

It is not alarming that this drink (like most 17th century drinks) was originally used for medicinal purposes. You would be prescribed a mint julep rather than order one, like we see here:

Medical communications: Volume 1 - Page 242 by Society for Promoting Medical Knowledge in 1784 "... sickness at the stomach, with frequent retching, and, at times, a difficulty of swallowing. I then prescribed her an emetic, some opening powders, and a mint julep."

Now we have a better idea of when it was created, let's figure out what's in it. A diary in America: with remarks on its institutions - Page 44 by Frederick Marryat in 1839 gives very specific instructions on how to prepare this drink. Infact, nearly everyone who researches this drink uses this piece of literature as a reference point. This plays a small role in why we believe the drink is prepared with equal portions of common and peach-flavored brandy. Another reason we believe this is because of the rise of the juleps popularity. In the late 1700's and early 1800's the julep really took off, literally hundreds of variations hit american drinking culture, many of which claiming to be the original.

There is overwhelming evidence supporting certain factors, others factors, not so certain. This drink dates between 1604-1620 (but may date far earlier) and originally prescribed as a medicine. As of then, this drink contained at least:

Light rum (Undetermined type, likely common rum)

Simple Syrup (Sugar and Water)

Mint Leaves (1-3 sprigs in the bottom of the vessel) With the stems facing down (Bruise the mint, do not muddle)

Shaved Ice (use the swizzle technique to mix this drink) No stirring allowed. Using the swizzle technique form ice crystals on the outside of the vessel which should be a metallic tin or cup.

Garnish with another (1-3 sprigs) of mint (please bruise), stems facing down


"Julep." "A dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning."

The Old Bachelor, By William Wirt, 1814

"A man in this line rises about six o'clock; " He then drinks a Julip, made of rum, water and sugar"

Note: Seems kind of similar to a Rum Sling; Are Slings the same as Julips, or Toddy?

Letters from North America, By Adam Hodgson, 1824

"Under the denominations of anti-fogmatics, mint julep, and gin sling, copius libations are poured out on the altars of Bacchus..."

Transatlantic Sketches: Comprising Visits to the Most Interesting Scenes in North and South, By James Edward Alexander, 1833

"Put four or five stalks of unbruised mint into a tumbler, on them place a lump of ice; add brandy, water, and sugar."

Autobiography of an Irish traveller, By Irish traveller, 1835

"Sir, you've only to ask me for what you may want, for father to-morrow will be all mops and brooms with his voters, and not know a glass of grog from a mint julep.*"

  • Fresh mint pounded and the juice mixed with rum and sugar.

The Rambler in North America, By Charles Joseph La Trobe, 1836

"As to the rest, it was agreed by the majority of the good people of Tallahassee, to go on drinking and stimulating with mint-julep, mint-sling, bitters,..."

Memoirs of a Water Drinker", By William Dunlap, 1837

"The mint-julep before breakfast in summer, and the egg-nogg in winter; the enticing toddy, with ice, at one season, and smoking hot at the other, as a prelude to dinner..."

A Diary in America, By Capt. Marryat, 1839

"There are many varieties [of Mint Julep], such as those composed of Claret, Madiera, &c.; but the ingredients of the real mint-julep are as follows. I learnt 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. Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with a piece of fresh pine-apple, and the tumbler itself is very often incrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink."

Travels in North America During the Years 1834, 1835 & 1836, By Charles Augustus Murray, 1839

"This delicious compound [Mint Julep] (which is sometimes in the southern and western states denominated "hail-storm") is usually made with wine, (madera [sic] or claret,) mingled in a tumbler with a soupçon of French brandy, lime, or lemon, ice pulverised by attrition, and a small portion of sugar, the whole being crowned with a bunch of fresh mint, through which the liquor percolates before it reaches the drinker's lips and "laps him in Elysium." This beverage is supposed to be of southern origin, and the methods of preparing it vary in the different states; some Carolinians will assert that it can only be found in perfection at Charleston; but I believe, that, by common consent, the immortal Willard (who kept the bar of the city hotel in New York for many years) was allowed to be the first master of this art in the known world. The name of this remarkage personage is familiar to every American, and to every foreigner who has visited the States during the last thirty years; I have heard many calculations of the number of mint juleps that he has been known to compound in one day, and of the immense profits resulting to the hotel from his celebrity; but not having written them down at the moment, I will not venture on a vague statement here. His memory was yet more surprising than his skill at concoction; of the hundreds and thousands who went in to enjoy practical demonstration of the latter, he never forgot a face, or a name if once mentioned; even although the individual were absent for years, he could at once address him as though he had been introduced but yesterday."

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine", 1841

"At Boston he learned to drink mint julep, which he pronounces one of the best gifts of providence, in such a hothouse climate as this. This preparation, of which we hear so perpetually in American tours, consists of layers of mint leaves placed among chipped ice, sprinkled over with two table-spoonfuls of powdered sugar, and a small glass of brandy to crown the whole. This is to be drunk as it becomes fluid, through the medium of a quill or a macaroni pipe. However, one peril of this beverage is, that the glass of brandy should be gradually increased to more. Those who tremble for their self-control, drink "sherry-cobblers." This the colonel interprets by "two glasses of very old sherry, substituted for the brandy.""

The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art, by Robert Walsh, 1842

"This delicious compound (which is sometimes in the Southern and Western States denominated "hail storm") is usally made with wine, madiera or claret, mingled in a tumbler with a soupcon of French brandy, lime, or lemon, ice pulverised by attrition, and a small portion of sugar, the whole being crowned with a bunch of fresh mint, through which the liquor percolates before it reaches the drinker's lips and laps him in Elysium." This beverage is supposed to be of Southern origin, and the methods of preparing it vary in the different States; some Carolinians will assert that it can only be found in perfection at Charleston; but I believe that, by common consent, the immortal Willard (who kept the bar of the City-hotel in New York for many years) was allowed to be the first master of this art in the known world."

Echoes from the Backwoods, Or, Sketches of Transatlantic Life, 1846

"Mint-julep is thus concocted:- Fresh raw mint. Equal quantities of brandy and rum. Sugar, with rough ice planed quite thin. The tumbler filled up with water to the top. It is poured backward and forward into another tumbler till the whole is churned up."

Drayton: A Story of American Life", By Thomas H. Shreve, 1851

"Get a tumbler, fill it half full of brandy, put sugar and mint in it, and then fill it up with ice, for I'm famishing for a julep."

Medical Lexicon, by Robley Dunglison, 1851

"MINT JULEP. A drink, consisting of brandy, sugar, and pounded ice, flavoured by sprigs of mint. It is an agreeable alcoholic excitant."

On the etiology, pathology, and treatment of fibro-bronchitis and rheumatic pneumonia, By Thomas Hepburn Buckler, 1853

"...take occasionally though the day a sip of mint-julep, made with good old brandy."

Works, By James Fenimore Cooper, 1853

"...Betty had the merit of being the inventor of that beverage which is so well known, at the present hour, to all the patriots who make a winter's march between the commercial and political capitals of this great state, and which is distinguished by the name of "cock-tail." Elizabeth Flanagan was peculiarly well qualified, by education and circumstances, to perfect this improvement in liquors, having been literally brought up on its principal ingredient, and having acquired from her Virginian customers the use of mint, from its flavour in a julep to its height of renown in the article in question."

Travels in South and North America, By Alexander Marjoribanks, 1853

"Mint-julep is also much relished, and the following is a good receipt for making it: - ice and sugar as above; a wine glass of best brandy; half a wine glass of superior old rum; two or three unbruised sprigs of fresh mint put against the side of the tumbler; fill up with pounded ice until it forms a cone; crown it with a large strawberry; mix and drink it as sherry-cobbler."

Dashes of American Humor, By Howard Paul, 1853

"The "Mint Julep" is the most fashionable drink of the summer season; and when the large goblet is diamonded with bits of ice, that rise like a miniature Alpine glacier with a coquetish forest of mint garnishing the side, and the summits crowned with a couple of rosy strawberries, the appearance, to begin with, is hugely fascinating in warm weather.

Independent American, 3rd August 1855

"...copied from the bill of fare of a Boston saloon. The following was the list, the reading of which created a great deal of amusement, viz:

Plain fruit Julep, Fancy mixed Julep, Mixed fruit Julep, Peach Julep, Strawberry Julep, Claret Julep, Capped Julep, Arrack Julep, Race Horse Julep,..."

The Quadroon; or, A lover's adventures in Louisiana, By Mayne Reid, 1856

"The gentleman now placed side by side two glasses - tumblers of large size. Into one he put, first, a spoonful of crushed white sugar - then a slice of lemon - ditto of orange - next a few sprigs of green mint - after that a handful of broken ice, a gill of water, and, lastly, a large glass measure of cognac. This done, he lifted the glasses one in each hand, and poured the contents from one to the other, so that ice, brandy, lemons, and all, seemed to be constantly suspended in the air, and oscillating between the glasses. The tumblers themselves at no time approached nearer than two feet from each other! This adroitness, peculiar to his craft, and only obtained after long practice, was evidently a source of professional pride. After some half-score of these revolutions the drink was permitted to rest in one glass, and was then set down upon the counter. There yet remained to be given the "finishing touch." A thin slice of pine-apple was cut freshly from the fruit. This held between the finger and thumb was doubled over the edge of the glass, and then passed with an adroit sweep round the circumference. "That's the latest [New] Orleans touch," remarked the barkeeper with a smile, as he completed the manoeuvre. There was a double purpose in this little operation. The pine-apple not only cleared the glass of the grains of sugar and broken leaves of mint, but left its fragrant juice to mingle its aroma with the beverage. "The latest [New] Orleans touch," he repeated; "scientific style."

Medical Lexicon, By Robley Dunglison, 1856

Mint Julep. A drink, consisting of brandy, sugar, and pounded ice, flavoured by sprigs of mint. It is an agreeable alcoholic excitant.

Hints for the table: or, The economy of good living, By John Timbs, 1859

"Mint Julep is brandy-and-water, sweetened with pounded white sugar, in which are stuck leaves of fresh-gathered mint. Pounded or planed Wenham Lake Ice is put into the tumbler, and the drink is imbibed through a straw or glass tube. At American bars, the brandy-and-water is first put into a large silver or glass goblet, then the ice, planed or broken very small; pounded white sugar is then dashed over them with a tablespoon; the whole is violently shaken, or tossed from one goblet to another, and served up in a clean goblet; fresh mint is stuck in the ice, a piece of lemon peel hangs over the brim, and a straw is put into the glass."

Modern household cookery, By Sarah Josepha Hale, 1860

"MINT JULEP (AS AMERICAS RECEIPT). Strip the tender leaves of mint into a tumbler, and add to them as much wine, brandy, or any other spirit, as you wish to take. Put some pounded ice into a second tumbler; pour this on the mint and brandy, and continue to pour the mixture from one tumbler to the other until the whole is sufficiently impregnated with the flavour of the mint, which is extracted by the particles of the ice coming into brisk contact when changed from one vessel to the other. Now place the glass in a larger one, containing pounded ice: on taking it out of which it will be covered with frost-work."

The Cook and Housewife's Manual, by Margaret Dods, 1862

"Mint-Julep.- Put a few leaflets of fresh mint into one of the deep tumblers used in the United States for cordial drams, and over these and a spoonful of sugar, pour what wine, brandy, or rum you wish: Have another deep tumbler, half-full of pounded ice; pour the spirit or wine over the ice, and briskly pour the whole backwards and forwards until sufficiently mixed..."

Jerry Thomas, 1862

  • Take 1 table-spoonful of white pulverized sugar.
  • 1/2 table-spoonfuls of water, mix well with a spoon.
  • 1 1/2 wine-glass full of brandy.

Take three or four sprigs of fresh mint, and press them well in the sugar and water, until the flavor of the mint is extracted ; add the brandy, and fill the glass with fine shaved ice, then draw out the sprigs of mint and insert them in the ice with the stems downward, so that the leaves will be above, in the shape of a bouquet; arrange berries, and small pieces of sliced orange on top in a tasty manner, dash with Jamaica rum, and serve with a straw.

Whiskey Julep. (Use large bar-glass.) The whiskey julep is made the same as the mint julep, omitting all fruits and berries.

Cups and their customs, By Henry Porter, George Edwin Roberts, 1863

"Julep, derived from the Persian word Julap (a sweetened draught), is a beverage spoken of by John Quincey, the physician, who died in 1723, and also mentioned by Milton in the lines- ....."Behold this cordial Julep here, That foams and dances in his crystal bounds, With spirits of balm and fragrant syrups mix'd." This drink is now made by pounding ice and white sugar together, and adding to it a wine-glass of brandy, hald a wine-glass of rum, and a piece of the outer rind of a lemon; these ingredients are shaken violently, and two or three sprigs of fresh mint are stuck in the glass; it is then usually imbibed through a straw, or stick of maccaroni."

The New, Frederick, Maryland, 18th June 1901

"Few people understand the manufacture of a mint julep," said Senator Peter. "I have met the marvelous things in mint juleps-bananas, oranges, cherries, raspberry juice, and even cucumbers on one occasion. Like the Maryland terrapin, the Maryland julep is very simply prepared, and when you begin to take liberties with it you are trying to paint the lily." "In olden times the julep was preferably made in silver pitchers. It should be made so now if possible, and if you have not the silver, glass is the next best substitute. A silver loving cup is the best thing when the party is such that it is not averse to drinking out of the same vessel. That is the real way to make a julep. The next thing is to carefully remove your mint leaves from the stems one by one. The stems are bitter and hurt the flavor. Steep your mint leaves in whiskey over night; don't crush them with a spoon. If you do you are making a mint smash, not a julep. That is the one difference between a julep and a smash. Fill your loving cup almost to the brim with ice about the size of a small hickory nut, not smaller or larger. Dissolve a-half dozen lumps of sugar in as little water as possible. Don't use too much sugar; about half a lump to the drink is all you need. Then first pour the sugared water, in which the leaves have been steeped but strained off. Stir vigorously and then stick spears of fresh young mint in the top of the ice, just leaving aperture enough for your nose and mouth, and you have the mint julep of your forbears. There is not a drop of water to be put in except that in which the sugar has been dissolved. Pour in the whiskey until the vessel is full if you want the best julep."

The Syracuse Herald, 25th June 1911

"One thing to remember, is that the mint must never be bruised. It has to be mint such as I have described [English Sparrow Mint]. Mint is the most delicate plant in the world. When you combine it with pure Jamaican rum you get a perfume that is delicate enough for the lace of the daintiest woman on earth. Of course you know all about putting a chunk of ice in the glass. Sprigs of the mint must be put in first as a layer. Then let the leaves peep over the rim of the glass. A spoonful of sugar drops over the ice. Then comes your rum. After that the whiskey, some distilled water, a squeeze of lemon juice over all. Then stir, using a silver spoon-almost necessary-and mind you don't bruise the mint."

Fort Wayne News, 28th May 1913

The Roosevelt Julep

"Henry Pinkney...who acted as general factotum with the Roosevelts, mixed the mint juleps T. R. said he drank while president. His recipe was a lump of sugar, a teaspoonful of water, some mint leaves stirred in with the liquid, a dash of brandy, a slug of rye, plenty of cracked ice and mint sprigs."

Rum, Romance & Rebellion, by Charles William Taussig, 1928

"The man rose about six o'clock and started the day with a "julap" made of rum, water and sugar"

Nevada State Journal, 1933-07-16

"Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar till it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush your mint within it with a spoon--crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away--it is a sacrifice. Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to cool, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed, no stirring allowed. Just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drains may find taste and odor at one draft."

"And that, my friend," concluded Cobb, "is one hell of a fine mint julep."

Swallow Barn, or A Sojourn in the Old Dominion, John Pendleton Kennedy, 1832

"We grew tranquil and communicative; and thoughtless of the late hour--or rather alive to its voluptuous charm--we completed our short circuit, and had gathered again into the porch, where we lay scattered about upon the benches, or seated on the door-sill. Here, whilst we smoked segars, and rambled over the idle topics that played in our thoughts, Harvey Riggs engaged himself in preparing a sleeping draught of that seductive cordial which common fame has celebrated as the native glory of Virginia. It is a vulgar error, Harvey contends, to appropriate the mint sling to the morning. "It is," he remarked with solemn emphasis, "the homologous peculiar of the night,--the rectifier of the fancy,--the parent of pleasant dreams,--the handmaid of digestion,--and the lullaby of the brain: in its nature essentially anti-roral; friendly to peristaltics and vermiculars; and, in its influence upon the body, jocund and sedative." I have recorded Harvey's express words, because in this matter I conceive him to be high authority."

Other Recipes

The Real Georgia Mint Julep.

  • Take 1 tea-spoonful of white powered sugar.
  • 3/4 wine-glass of Cognac brandy.
  • 3/4 wine glass 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. This is the genuine method of concocting a Southern mint julep, but whiskey may be substituted for brandy if preferred.

Manila Hotel Mint Julep

From the Manila Hotel in Luzon, Philippines, circa 1926 (according to "Vintage Spirits" by Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel, 1999).

"To make it, follow the directions for a Bourbon Mint Julep, but finish by floating 2 teaspoons of rum on top and garnishing with two sticks of fresh pineapple."

Mint Julep History

"Chris Morris from Woodford Reserve Bourbon says "Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives." When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area. The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe."

"The main ingredient of the Mint Julep is Bourbon Whiskey. "The biggest change for the julep was the addition of American whiskey to the recipe," says Morris. "The julep was quickly transformed into a mixture of water, sugar, mint leaves, and good American whiskey.""

Mint Julep Quotes

The Buckner Mint Julep Ceremony

The following is a copy of a letter from Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., USA [(VMI-1906, West Point-1908) killed on Okinawa June 18, 1945] to Major General William D. Connor, [Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point] dated March 30, 1937. Buckner Jr. was the son of General Simon Bolivar Buckner of the Confederate army who surrendered Fort Donelson to General Grant, thus giving Grant his nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. This letter clearly demonstrates the esteem in which a "Mint Julep" is held.

My Dear General Connor:

Your letter requesting my formula for mixing mint juleps leaves me in the same position in which Captain Barber found himself when asked how he was able to carve the image of an elephant from a block of wood. He said that it was a simple process consisting merely of whittling off the part that didn't look like an elephant.

The preparation of the quintessence of gentlemanly beverages can be described only in like terms. A mint julep is not a product of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion. It is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician nor a Yankee. It is a heritage of the Old South, and emblem of hospitality, and a vehicle in which noble minds can travel together upon the flower-strewn paths of a happy and congenial thought.

So far as the mere mechanics of the operation are concerned, the procedure, stripped of its ceremonial embellishments, can be described as follows:

Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream thru its banks of green moss and wild flowers until it broadens and trickles thru beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breeze. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age, yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.

Into a canvas bag pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush. Into each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outside of the goblets dry, and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the delicate and important operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glistening coat of white frost.

Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.

When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden where the aroma of the juleps will rise heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblets to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.

Being overcome with thirst, I can write no further.

Sincerely, Lt. Gen. S.B. Buckner, Jr. VMI Class of 1906

Captain Marryat's Mint Julep Recipe (1837)

“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 up one third, or, perhaps, a little less; then take rasped or pounded ice, and fill up the tumbler. Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with a piece of fresh pineapple; and the tumbler itself is very often encrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink.”

Pre-Mint, Juleps

Travels Through Cyprus, Syria, and Palestine; with a General History of the Levant., by Giovanni Mariti, 1792

"By forming a little rum, sugar, and lemon juice into a kind of julap, and putting it into a bottle, which I carried along with me..."

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