The history of this mighty cocktail, and Juleps in general, goes way way WAY back to ancient Persia (modern day Iran). Rosewater was thought to have health benefits and the word for rosewater is gulab (gul=rose, ab=water). The word makes it way to the surrounding Arab culture and the word Julāb was used for any kind of sweetened medicinal syrup, kinda like robitussin. The word and associated sweetened medicine make their way through cultures and eventually make it to England as Julepum or Julep. In the 1750s a Julepum Stomachicum (a stomach julep to settle an upset tummy) is published in medical journals and calls for mint infused sweetener mixed with sherry. The stomach julep makes its way to the United States and takes a boozier pivot in New Orleans. And the rest is history.
This drink is a whiskey variation of the Mint Julep which came out of New Orleans. The original Mint Julep is a brandy cocktail and New Orleans was a French territory and you know that the French love their brandy.
The whiskey version is often called a Mint Julep today, but Mint Juleps were originally made with brandy. The mint julep, whiskey julep, gin julep, etc all existed at the same time but starting in the late 1800s people just started making the mint julep with whiskey instead.This change was further cemented by the Kentucky Derby which made their Mint Julep with Kentucky bourbon and the official cocktail of the race. Due to its association with the popular race most people think of the Mint Julep as a bourbon cocktail.
Like the Moscow Mule, these have their own cute little tin cups they traditionally go in called Julep cups. Look them up, they’re gorgeous. I talk like Fog horn leg horn and drink everything in them just to feel like a fancy southern gent.