You’ll want to gallop on over to the liquor cabinet for today’s food holiday. May 30 is National Mint Julep Day!
The exact origin of the Mint Julep is muddled, much like the drink itself. It is believed to have been popularized in the Southern United States sometime in the 1700s. The first reference to it appeared in print in 1803; it was described as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.” Sure enough, the mint julep was originally a morning drink that would give farmers in the east and southeast who had to arise at dawn a more persuasive pick-me-up than coffee. It is believed that the mint julep was an Americanized version of an Arabic drink called the julab, which consisted of water and rose petals. As the beverage spread through the Mediterranean, the rose petals were replaced with mint leaves indigenous to the region. Americans made it their own with the addition of bourbon whiskey; the standard ingredients now include bourbon, sugar, water, and mint leaves.
The mint julep became synonymous with the Kentucky Derby in 1938, when Churchill Downs started serving it in souvenir glasses for 75 cents. Today more than 120,000 mint juleps are sold at the “running of the roses” each year, no doubt many of them purchased by folks who want to drown their sorrows after picking the wrong damn horse yet again.
My dad is a big fan of the Kentucky Derby, and has been there in person to collect souvenir glasses on several occasions. He also enjoys bourbon, and always has some on hand. This confluence of events convinced us that we should celebrate National Mint Julep Day with my parents. So we did. And, like many of our alcohol-related challenges, we weren’t real impressed with this drink. I found it too sweet and Tara thought it was too strong. Actually, it was both. But we took a few sips from our derby-themed glasses and can, at least, add another challenge to the books.