AskDefine | Define julep

Dictionary Definition

julep n : bourbon and sugar and mint over crushed ice [syn: mint julep]

User Contributed Dictionary



From (golâb).


  1. A refreshing drink flavored with aromatic herbs, especially mint.

Extensive Definition

The Mint Julep is a mixed alcoholic drink, or cocktail, associated with the cuisine of the Southern United States.
A mint julep is traditionally made of four ingredients: mint, bourbon, sugar and water. In the use of sugar and mint, it is similar to the mojito. In preparing a mint julep, a fresh mint sprig is used primarily as a garnish, to introduce the flavor and aroma through the nose. If mint leaves are used in the preparation, they should just be very lightly bruised, if at all. Recipes from many reputable bartending books confirm this. However, 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/or juices into the mixture, intensifying the flavor from the added ingredient or ingredients.
The origins of the mint julep are clouded and 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 in it, taken by Virginians in the morning." However, Davis did not specify that bourbon was the spirit used. What is known for certain is that the mint julep originated in the southern United States, probably 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 Arabic julâb and Persian gulâb, meaning rosewater.
Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup. Traditional hand placement may have arisen as a way to reduce the heat transferred from the hand to the silver or pewter cup. Today, mint juleps are most commonly served in a tall old-fashioned glass, Collins glass, or highball glass with a straw.


  • Kremlin Colonel - with vodka instead of bourbon; the fresh mint flavoring differentiates the drink from the similar vodka stinger that uses crème de menthe.

Popular culture

The Kentucky Derby

  • It is well-known as the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, a position it has held since 1938; during the event, more than 120,000 juleps are served (2007) at Churchill Downs. For over 18 years, the Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail has been the designated "official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby".
  • In May 2006, Churchill Downs served custom-made mint juleps at a cost of $1000 each at the Kentucky Derby. The mint juleps were served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, and were made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. The proceeds were used to support charitable causes dedicated to retired race horses.
  • In May 2008, Churchill Downs unveiled the world's largest mint julep glass. Churchill Downs, in conjunction with Early Times, commissioned the Weber Group to fabricate the 6' tall glass (7 1/2' if the mint sprig is included). The glass was constructed from FDA food-grade acrylic, heated and molded into the shape of an official 2008 Derby glass. It had a capacity of 206 gallons, and distributed the mint juleps at the Derby with an elaborate pumping system concealed within the "stir straw".

On television

  • The mint julep was a featured recipe on the "Raising the Bar" episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment," Homer is making home-made liquor in his basement. One batch, which Moe refers to as a "Bathtub Mint Julep," is served to three Kentucky gentlemen.
  • In The Simpsons episode "I'm with Cupid," Apu realizes he has seven days before Valentine's Day to surprise his wife, "sweet Manjula". Homer responds by drooling over the thought of a "sweet mint julep".
  • Mint Julep is believed to be one of the favorite drinks of Star Trek character Dr. Leonard McCoy. A man from the "Old South", McCoy is fond of Bourbon whiskey and its derivatives. He prepares a Mint Julep for himself during the episode "This Side of Paradise" aired on March 2, 1967.
  • On King of the Hill when Hank is trying to win over a client, the client demands a mint julep before he will talk to Hank about propane. The client then says the drink is awful because there was no vodka or tomato juice.
  • On NCIS, Season 3, "Untouchable," Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo recalls his mother having drunk his pet sea monkeys after confusing their sea castle with her mint julep.
  • On the series finale of The Golden Girls, Dorothy (Bea Arthur) tells Lucas (Leslie Nielsen) she'd worried she might never see him again. "Never see me again?" Lucas asks. "I'd buy a julep for the ghost of General Grant before I'd let that happen." To which Dorothy replies, "I was hoping you'd say that."
  • On the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Hamburger Postulate", character Rajnesh Koothrappali states "When the smokes clears, Abraham Lincoln will be speaking Hindi and drinking mint juleps," when arguing that the Hindu gods Ganesh and Shiva would win against the Union Army plus Orcs in the Civil War.

In film

  • In the Marx Brothers movie Go West, S. Quentin Quale (Groucho) and Joe Panello (Chico) get drunk on mint juleps with three caberet dancers.
  • In the movie Goldfinger, James Bond drinks with the titular villain, ordering a julep made with Tennessee sour mash instead of bourbon, and also specified as "not too sweet." The villain also asks at one point, "the Julep tart enough?"
  • The drink is the center of a drawn out comedic scene from the Francis Ford Coppola film, Finian's Rainbow.
  • The drink is mentioned in the film Thank You for Smoking (2006) when the Captain explains to Nick Naylor the secret to making the perfect Mint Julep, and later at the Captain's funeral, it is placed on his coffin.
  • In the movie One, Two, Three, lead character C.R. MacNamara describes Atlanta as "That's Siberia with Mint Juleps".
  • In the 1974 remake Mame (film), a song of the same title mentions the drink through lyric; "You give my old mint julep a kick, Mame."

In literature

  • In Washington Irving's A History of New York, Yankees are paralleled to their "prototypes and cousins-german" of Virginia, as being "great roisterers, much given to revel on hoe-cake and bacon, mint-julep and apple toddy". Irving claims this as the origin of the name "Merryland", as it was known during the governance of Willem Kieft, later slightly modified to the present name of Maryland.
  • Mint juleps are referenced in the Hunter S. Thompson piece The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved They are further mentioned in a 'flashback' that Hunter S Thompson recalls in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 which takes place at the Kentucky Derby.
  • The drink is mentioned in chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby. It takes place in a steaming hotel suite at the Plaza Hotel on a hot New York summer day. Tom, Daisy, and the rest of their friends rent the suite to take cold baths and drink mint juleps. The waiter comes with their order of crushed mint and ice, but before mixing the drinks Tom and Gatsby get into an argument over Gatsby's time at Oxford after the armistice of World War I. Daisy tries to stop the argument by offering to make the drinks.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's 1948 novel Space Cadet, Tex bribes a waitress at a space station bar to make and serve a pitcher of mint juleps to him and his two roommates during a brief leave from the Academy. Matt and Oscar have one and then pass on the rest, but Tex gets drunk, requiring his roommates cover up for him after he vomits all over his uniform, since the cadets are not allowed to consume alcohol. The incident reveals that Tex is not quite the wild man he has made himself out to be, and he admits that with the exception of his Uncle Bodie, his family are teetotalers.
  • The novel Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley mentions the drink when The Captain explains to Nick Naylor the secret to making the perfect Mint Julep. (Crushing the mint onto the ice.)
  • David Domine alludes to the preparation of the Mint Julep as a popular Derby ritual in his books Ghosts of Old Louisville: True Stories of Hauntings in America's Largest Victorian Neighborhood and Phantoms of Old Louisville: Ghostly Tales from America's Most Haunted Neighborhood.
  • In "Gone With the Wind", Gerald O'Hara's favorite drink is described as the Mint Julep.
  • In his poem "Cultural Exchange", Langston Hughes, in caricaturing certain pro-segregationists as "white mammies", writes: "Hand me my mint julep, mammy./Hurry up!/Make haste!"
  • In "The Shroud of the Thwacker" by Chris Elliot, in a contrast between the rich and poor of 1880's New York, Elliot writes: "...while uptown the more posh types like the Vanderbilts, the Bloomingdales, and the Trumps sipped their mint juleps, made fun of poor people, and frolicked on their private beaches along the East River, also contracting cholera.
  • In his short story The Duplicity of Hargraves O Henry describes a typical old-Southern man Major Talbot's mint julep making: "It was a fascination to Hargraves to watch him make it. He took rank among artists when he began, and he never varied the process. With what delicacy he bruised the mint; with what exquisite nicety he estimated the ingredients; with what solicitous care he capped the compound with the scarlet fruit glowing against the dark green fringe! And then the hospitality and grace with which he offered it, after the selected oat straws had been plunged into its tinkling depths!"

In music


  • The play "The Mint Julep Trilogy", by Nick Zagone, features the Mint Julep as a romantic device. The titular drink is accessory to the plot of the piece.
  • The Hawksmoor restaurant in Shoreditch London serves Juleps and no other cocktail.



  • Domine, David. Adventures in New Kentucky Cooking with the Bluegrass Peasant (Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing House), 2007 ISBN 091338397X
  • The Mint Julep: The Very Dream of Drinks, from the Old Receipt of Soule Smith, down in Lexington, Kentucky (Lexington, KY: The Gravesend Press), 1949. [reprinted in 1964]
  • Nickell, Joe. The Kentucky Mint Julep (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky), 2003. ISBN 0-8131-2275-9
julep in German: Mint Julep
julep in Estonian: Julep
julep in French: Mint julep
julep in Latin: Iulapium
julep in Japanese: ミント・ジュレップ
julep in Swedish: Mint Julep
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