Few drinks come with a history as storied as the Mint Julep. When the cocktail was first created in the late 1700s, it was built with lots of fresh fruit and had a gin or brandy base. It was a cocktail that signified wealth, as it required imported alcohol, fresh fruit and lots of ice, all of which were expensive. In the 1930s the folks at Churchill Downs co-opted the julep and, in partnership with local distilleries, switched the base alcohol to bourbon — and a legend was reborn.
- Handful of fresh mint sprigs
- ½ ounce simple syrup (50/50 sugar and water, melted together)
- 2½ ounces whiskey
- Crushed ice
In a glass (a silver cup is traditional but not required), gently muddle a few mint leaves in the simple syrup. Don’t pulverize them; that will make the drink bitter. Add crushed ice to fill the glass, then the whiskey. Stir gently. Garnish with a large handful of fresh mint sprigs. Instructions from the 1800s call for enough fresh mint to tickle your ears when you drink from the cup, so don’t be shy.