Cocktail Classic

The mint julep made its first recorded splash in history in the Commonwealth, and it’s still going strong.

Photo courtesy of KO Distilling

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon from KO Distilling.

Some say the mint julep was inspired by a Middle Eastern drink called the julab, made from water and rose petals. Others claim it was born along the East Coast in the early 1700s. And we know it became the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938. 

But the mint julep was first mentioned in an 1803 book by author John Davis, who described it as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.” So it’s fitting that modern Virginians enjoy putting their own twists on the classic.

At Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, rye whiskey is a popular substitute for bourbon in the traditional drink. “Traditionally, mint juleps were made with bourbon, but historically, they would be made with whatever spirits were available regionally,” says founder Scott Harris. In the mid-Atlantic, this would’ve been rye whiskey. “Good whiskey makes a good mint julep!” says Harris.

MurLarkey Distilled Spirits in Bristow combines its Three Tea Whiskey, muddled mint leaves, turbinado sugar, and lemon to create the classic cocktail. “The balance of mint and sugar syrup makes a quality julep stand out from others,” says general manager Jim Larkin.

In Manassas, KO Distilling uses its Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey in its Cherry Blossom Mint Julep. Pomegranate juice, tart cherry juice, vanilla syrup, elderflower liqueur, and drops of spiced cherry bitters combine to create the cocktail. “We find that the floral notes of this cocktail enhance its classic flavors,” says customer experience director Aimée Coté. 

CatoctinCreekDistilling.com, MurLarkey.com, KODistilling.com

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