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Walter Percy’s Mint Julep

Serves 1

© by The Drunken Botanist

There are those who believe that a well-constructed mint julep is intended to last all day, that there is no second mint julep, just one large, powerful drink that grows gradually sweeter and more watered down as the ice melts and the sugar and bourbon settle together at the bottom of the glass.

Southern writer Walter Percy insisted that a good julep should hold at least five ounces of bourbon, a quantity that sloshes right over anyone’s daily limit. This recipe remains true to his vision, but you may use less bourbon if you wish to feel like more of an upstanding citizen.


  • Bourbon 5 oz
  • Fresh Spearmint several sprigs
  • Superfine Sugar 4-5 Tbs
  • Crushed Ice

Mix It

  1. Into a silver julep cup, a highball glass, or a Mason jar, press 2 or 3 tablespoons of superfine sugar together with a very small quantity of water, just enough to make a sugary paste. Add a layer of fresh spearmint leaves. Press them gently with a muddler or wooden spoon, but do not smash them. Pile on a layer of fresh finely crushed ice. Mr Percy prefers that you reduce the ice to powder by wrapping it in a dry towel and banging it with a wooden mallet. To that layer, add a fine sprinkling of sugar and a few more mint leaves that you have spanked, but not crushed, by clapping them loudly between your hands.
  2. Top with another layer of crushed ice and continue in this manner until the glass is so full that it seems that it cannot possibly hold a drop of bourbon. Pour in as much as it will, in fact, hold, which turns out to be right about 5 ounces. Now carry your julep to the porch and remain there until bedtime: there will be nothing else to your day but the slow draining of the glass and the pleasant drone of the cicadas.

From The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart © 2013 published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.