Book Review: The Kentucky Mint Julep

Book Review: The Kentucky Mint Julep

JulepThe Commonwealth of Kentucky is home to many a splendored thing: actors Clooney, Depp, and Shatner, bluegrass music, horses, Lionel Hampton, Loretta Lynn, and of course bourbon. While these are all claims of which to be Kentucky proud, one of the finer small indulgences signaling spring’s imminent arrival to the Bluegrass is the season’s first sip of Mint Julep.

Indeed, even the poets have sung of its luxury. Clarence Ousley pontificated on the wedding of mint and bourbon in his poem “When The Mint Is In The Liquor,” so eloquently writing that “When the mint is in the liquor and/its fragrance on the glass/it breathes a recollection that/can never, never pass.”

Colonel Joe Nickell’s The Kentucky Mint Julep delves into the rich history of the Julep’s origin – it appears to derive from the Persian gulab, meaning “rosewater” – and takes the reader on a tour of the cocktail’s legacy. Equally as intriguing as the book’s subject is the history of its author: Nickell has held such past occupations as a professional blackjack dealer, stage magician, university professor, and is currently one of the country’s most established investigators in debunking alleged paranormal activity.

Mint Julep offers a generous number of anecdotes using the voices of time as its roadmap. While the first half of the book is entertaining, the real reward is the compact book’s second act, featuring extensively researched recipes through the ages, starting with an offering from one of Kentucky’s greatest politicians, Henry Clay. Nickell is even considerate enough to include non-alcoholic variations on the Julep for those who don’t partake in alcohol consumption.

Nickell crafts an engaging, informative read for those wishing to learn of the Mint Julep’s storied place in history. He writes with an ease and clarity that it is accessible to both casual, curious readers and seasoned experts. It’s a quick and easy read that’s equally as informative as it is entertaining.


Full disclosure: This book was published by the University Press of Kentucky, and is a department of the University of Kentucky where I am currently employed. I am not affiliated with their press.

The Kentucky Mint Julep




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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