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Make a Mint Julep with Henry Clay's original recipe

With the Kentucky Derby scheduled for Saturday, there's no better time to enjoy its official drink, the Mint Julep. However, the history of the cocktail goes back a long time before the Kentucky Derby was even designed.


According to David Wondrich's cocktail history book Imbibe! is the first known record of a Juleps from the Kitab al-Mansuri a Persian medical text from around 900 AD. The Julep, which the author in Kitab al-Mansuri but looked very different from the modern favorite (it was also written as julāb ). It was a medicinal drink made by soaking violets with sugar in water. "Julep" reappears in the historical record in the 1

4th century when the book was translated into Latin.

For centuries the drink was used almost exclusively as medicine. It migrated across the Atlantic to America with early European settlers, along with an herb valued for its medicinal properties: mint.

Around the time it hit the United States, things changed a little. In the 18th century, people started drinking it both in their free time and in medicine, but we wouldn't recognize these drops as modern Julep. First of all, they were made with the spirit that was available locally. Before the civil war, southern Juleps were probably made with fruit brandy. In Maryland, Julep was (and still is) made with rye whiskey. Elsewhere it would have been made with rum or rye or moonlight or just about any alcohol available. The drink would be sweetened with honey, sorghum syrup, or any other sweetener available. Since mint was not available all year round, it would have been a seasonal drink.


Portrait of Henry Clay by Henry F. Darby

As history says, Bourbon's role is the point of contact. The basis for Julep was cemented by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. Clay is famous for a number of things, not least for the "corrupt business" that secured the 1824 presidential election for John Quincy Adams. The Kentucky senator also mixed his mint juleps with the native spirit of his state and he is recognized as the founding father of bourbon mint juleps.

Clay & # 39; s love for Julep is well documented. He probably introduced the drink to the famous Willard Hotel in Washington, DC at the time it opened in 1847. Clay & # 39; s diaries indicate that he made his juleps with "soft bourbon, aged in oak barrels".


As Collected From the University of Kentucky Press, Clay's recipe for Minz-Julep from his diary is as follows:

The fresh and tender mint leaves should be pressed against a silver coin cup with the back of a silver spoon . Gently squeeze the leaves and then remove them from the cup. Fill half with broken ice. Mild bourbon, matured in oak barrels, is poured out of the jigger and slowly slipped through the broken ice.

In another jar, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to get a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured onto the ice. While moisture pearls accumulate on the burnished outside of the silver cup, garnish the rim of the cup with the best sprigs of mint.

Or in modern terms:

Handful of mint leaves
1/4 – 1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces of bourbon
Crushed Ice

Lightly press the mint leaves against the inside of a silver one Julep cups (do not crush them) so that you can smell the mint. Add the simple syrup. Fill the glass halfway with broken ice and pour the bourbon over the ice. Stir until the glass begins to frost. Add more ice and stir again. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a short straw.

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