Brian Makes Mint Juleps: The 1857

For our next historical mint julep, Brian samples The Prescription Mint Julep from 1857! 


For this installment of our walk through the history of the mint julep, we depart the 1840s and make a stop in 1857. The great cocktail and spirit historian David Wondrich brought this recipe to light in his work, Imbibe, originally appearing as part of the serialized story “A Winter in the South” in Harper’s Magazine in 1857. To make it, you will need:

  • 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp room temperature water
  • At least three sprigs of mint
  • Finely crushed ice
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 tbsp.) Cognac
  • 1/2 oz (1 tbsp.) Rye Whiskey

The original recipe called for 4 tbsp of sugar; while I generally stick to the documentation, that is a LOT. Wondrich suggested using 1 tbsp. of sugar and I agree- the result is as sweet as you would ever want it to be. Dissolve the sugar in the water in a julep cup (you can substitute simple syrup but might lose something in translation; if you do not have a julep cup, a glass will do). Remove the leaves from one of the sprigs of mint, crush them, and add them to the mixture of sugar and water. Mix. Nearly (but not completely) fill the cup with finely crushed ice; leave enough room for the spirits. Add the Cognac and rye; give it all a quick stir; add more ice to nearly reach the brim if the ice settled too much. Rub at least two mint sprigs in your hands to start to release the scent; place them stem down in the cocktail. Add a straw and snip off to the level that your nose will be next to the mint. Give it a moment to chill the glass and enjoy!

In our first installment, I mentioned that people who know how to make a julep are confident that they know THE way to make a julep. I was no different- I had my method and expected to be underwhelmed but maybe intrigued by the novelty of these early recipes. Nothing could have been further from the truth- combining Cognac and rye would have never crossed my mind and calling it a “mint julep” would have registered as blasphemy. But this recipe, along with the others, is a complete experience in a cup and worthy of the noble title it bears. Hope you enjoy exploring along with us!

One thought on “Brian Makes Mint Juleps: The 1857

  1. Haven’t tried it but it sounds like it might be the closest to what I have had at a friend’s house. Stay well! LSSB

    Sent from my iPad

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