Did you know 120,000 mint juleps are sold during Derby weekend in Louisville? Although this cocktail, traditionally served in a silver cup, has been associated with the Kentucky Derby for just about a century, it is actually a refreshing, sophisticated cocktail that’s good any time. Whether you missed out on Derby Day or you’re still nursing your betting wounds, you can still celebrate National Mint Julep Day on May 30 — all you need is bourbon, sugar, mint, and ice! So dust off your muddler and let’s make juleps!
National Mint Julep Day Activities
1. Throw a Kentucky Derby costume party
So you missed the Run for the Roses? No problem, you’ve got a do-over. Channel your inner Southern belles and gentlemen to celebrate National Mint Julep Day. For the ladies, picture hats are a must — the bigger and more ostentatious the better (in fact, why not add in a “Best Hat” contest?). Keep your clothing simple — a pastel linen sheath dress or spring suit works well. Dapper gentlemen should choose a seersucker or linen suit, paired with a bow tie and possibly a fedora or bowler hat. Classic oxfords (no socks, please!) complete the look.
2. Buck tradition with these variations
The classic mint julep is made of bourbon (or whiskey), sugar or simple syrup, mint, water, and shaved ice — but if that doesn’t appeal, there are many unorthodox alternatives. How about a cherry-lime, watermelon, peach or blackberry mint julep? You can make mint-julep popsicles for portable refreshment, or mint-julep ice cubes that will turn any old glass of Southern sweet tea into a cocktail.
3. Taste some bourbon
Maybe mint’s not your thing, or maybe you just can’t be chuffed to crush all that ice. No worries. Pretend you’re doing research for next year’s Derby Day and hold a bourbon tasting. Find a well-stocked bar with a knowledgeable barkeep, or ask friends to contribute a bottle of their favorite, lesser-known bourbon to the effort.
Why We Love National Mint Julep Day
A. There’s something about the ritual
Much like its winter-weather cousin, the Moscow mule, a mint julep gains gravitas from the ritual used to make it. The extra-but-not-too-esoteric ingredients and the specialty cup (copper for the mule, silver for the julep) make these drinks feel fancy. Sure, it’s not as easy as cracking open another beer, but neither is it as tricky to make as lots of cocktails. And the payoff is worth it.
B. It’s a local drink with universal appeal
Northerners, take heart; you too can enjoy a julep. Although the drink originated below the Mason-Dixon line, it’s a fine, refreshing beverage whenever and wherever the mercury rises.
C. It’s utterly American...well, maybe
Some theories propose that the julep is a variation on an ancient Arabic drink called the julab, which featured rose petals. The mint, and eventually the bourbon, eventually transformed it into an all-American tipple. In fact, the earliest print mention of the mint julep described it as a "dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning." Sure, why not?