A recipe supposedly by Henry Clay's body servant was recently rescued during the restoration of an old house frequented by Clay. Incidentally, it was Senator Clay who introduced, to much acclaim, the mint julep to Washington society during his time in the capital. The below “recipe” is from his notes:
- Mint leaves, fresh and tender, are bruised lightly against the sides of a cup using the back of a spoon.
- Remove the leaves and fill the cup halfway with cracked ice.
- Bourbon from oaken barrels is poured gently into the cup and allowed to slide slowly through the ice.
- In another container, granulated sugar is dissolved in chilled limestone water then poured over the ice.
- As beads of moisture gather on the cup, the frosted brim is garnished with choice sprigs of mint, and the whole served with a courtly bow.
Today's purists insist that the only proper container for the drink remains the silver vessel of yesteryear. First introduced in 1816, the cups were beakers with cylindrical bodies and slightly molded lips and bases. In addition to their durability and handsome good looks, the silver cups hold frost-an indispensable characteristic of the classic julep--better than glass, or, alas, plastic. Many southern families still display julep cups on their sideboards as highly prized and valuable antiques.