The History of Julep Cocktails And Their Ancient Origins.
The history of the Julep goes back to ancient Persia (modern-day Iran). Rosewater was thought to have health benefits, and the word for rosewater in old Persian is Gulab (gul=rose, ab=water). Gulab slowly made its way to the surrounding Arabic cultures, and over time, the word Gulab changed to Julāb, and it was used to describe any sweetened medicinal syrup. Julābs eventually traveled to western Europe and England; syrupy medicines are called Julaps or Julapums. By the mid-1700s, there were all kinds of julaps. Rosewater julap was called Julapum Rosatum and was used for treating Heart issues. Julapum tabaci was a tobacco-infused syrup for treating asthma, Julapum sedativum was opium syrup Julapum Stomachicum was a mint-infused syrup used to settle upset tummies. I found many kinds of other Julapums, but this is good enough. Also, most of what I found was written in Latin, and google translate can only do so much. A medical journal I found online from the 1750s calls for a Julapum Stomachicum to be a peppermint-infused sweetener mixed with sherry. What we today consider a mint julep emerges around the early 1800s. The British 1827 home medical book Oxford Night Caps refers to a mint julap as a mint syrup mixed with brandy that a parent can make to ease the upset tummy.
With its unique drinking culture, the mint julep took on a different identity in the United States. Mint juleps were dressed up and made fancy for saloon patrons looking to get buzzed. The oldest printed recipe for this saloon-style julep comes from Jerry Thomas’s 1862 edition of The Bar Tenders Guide. The formula is one table-spoonful of white pulverized sugar. And 2 1/2 tablespoonfuls of water and mix well with a spoon. 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint. 1 1/2 wine glass Cognac brandy, dash with Jamaica rum, and sprinkle white sugar on top. Jerry Thomas also has recipes for a gin julep, whiskey julep, a pineapple julep, pineapple syrup, and gin cocktail.
The mint julep stays a brandy cocktail for a very long time, and most bartenders and recipe books copy Jerry Thomas till around the late 1800s. Books in the late 1880s mention how the once-loved julep had fallen in favor of other more complex cocktails and is typically something only the older men order. Around this time, the mint julep recipe replaces brandy for bourbon. The first instance of this is in the 1888 book Bartender’s Manual by Theodore Proulx, where he has his recipe for a mint julep that uses bourbon instead of brandy. Whether this change is accidental or intentional, it would happen when the cocktail begins to fade from the bartender’s repertoire. As decades passed, the mint julep and whiskey julep merged till it just became standard to make a mint julep with whiskey.
Variations Of The Mint Julep.
This specific version is the whiskey julep variation of the mint julep. Had you ordered a mint julep in the 1800s, you would be given a brandy cocktail instead, but the whiskey variation is the most common one made today. All the other variations of the mint julep are almost entirely forgotten today, and almost everyone only knows of the mint julep. Jerry Thomas had recipes for a gin julep, whiskey Julep, pineapple julep, and a plain brandy julep. Harry Johnson added the Champagne Julep too in his 1882 book Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual. An 1885 book called New guide for the hotel, bar, restaurant, butler, and chef by Bacchus has nine different Julep recipes. They are not worth listing here as they are all quite lousy.
Getting The Ice Right In A Julep.
I feel the most essential part of any julep is the crushed or shaved ice you will pack the cup with. This cocktail should have the spirit of a snow cone that tastes sweet of mint and booze, and the ice should be rounded over the rim. Otherwise, it comes across as old-fashioned if you don’t pack the cup with ice, and the julep should be more of a refreshing hot daytime summer drink and not a smoky old nighttime bar drink.
Download The Official Vintage American Cocktails App
Discover what classic cocktails you can make right now with the ingredients you have. Check out the Vintage American Cocktail app.
Make Cocktails Like A Pro
If you have ever struggled with a recipe or wonder why yours are not turning out like they do at the bar then check out my simple step-by-step videos. I will walk you through how to expertly build each drink so you get consistently great results.
- Free and simple step by step videos.
- Tips and tricks from years of experience.
- Historically accurate and balanced recipes.