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mint julep

The Classic Mint Julep: A Southern Cocktail for the Kentucky Derby

 The Mint Julep has become one of the most popular classic cocktails of the modern era.

The origins of the mint julep may never be definitively known. The first appearance of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning

The julep originated in the southern United States during the eighteenth century. U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar in the famous Willard Hotel during his residence in the city. The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine. The word itself is derived from a Persian word meaning rose water. Americans enjoyed not only bourbon-based juleps during the nineteenth century, but also gin-based juleps made with genever, an aged gin. However a Bourbon Julep is by far the most popular version and it is forever tied to the Kentucky Derby. By its very Southern nature FREIGHT Kitchen & Tap claims it as the house summer beverage of choice.

The mint julep has been promoted by Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Each year almost 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.

A FREIGHT Mint Julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint leaf, bourbon, sugar, and water. Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used in Southern states, and in Kentucky in particular. Proper preparation of the cocktail is commonly debated, as methods may vary considerably from one bartender to another. By another method, the mint julep may be considered as one of a loosely associated family of drinks called “smashes” (the brandy smash is another example, as well as the mojito), in which fresh mint and other ingredients are muddled or crushed in preparation for flavoring the finished drink. The step further releases essential oils and juices into the mixture, intensifying the flavor from the added ingredient or ingredients.

Today, mint juleps are most commonly served in a tall old-fashioned glass, Collins glass, or highball glass with a straw. Come down to FREIGHT Kitchen & Tap for the Kentucky derby this Saturday and enjoy a classic Mint Julep.

To Make Your Mint Julep at home…


  • Take a small handful of fresh mint leaves (4-6 full leaves) and rub the inside of your desired service glass so as to release the essential oils in the mint. For extra flavor once the leaves are pressed inside the glass you may elect to allow them to remain.
  • Fill half your glass with crushed ice.
  • Pour 3 to 4 oz of your favorite Kentucky Bourbon into your glass.
  • Place 1 tsp of granulated sugar into glass and stir with tall bar spoon, or use simple syrup to taste.
  • Fill rest of glass with crushed ice and garnish with full bouquet of fresh mint leaves
  • Drink up , enjoy and pick a winning horse.


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