No matter your beverage of choice, there’s no denying that the hot and humid weather allowed some pretty delicious cocktails to originate in the South. Here’s the real story behind five of your favorite concoctions.
The Mint Julep
This staple of the South is made with a sugar syrup and mint mixed with a dark liquor, like brandy, rum or most commonly today, bourbon. The cocktail first showed up in print in 1803 where it was said to be the drink of choice for Old Virginians who would drink it out of silver goblets with their breakfast. Long before that, farmers were using the drink for medicinal purposes or as a morning pick-me-up. However, historians think the Mint Julep actually originated a century before when it arrived on the East Coast from Persia. Today, it’s been adopted as the state drink of Kentucky and made exclusively with Kentucky Bourbon. Each year, 120,000 Mint Juleps will be poured for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Also known as “White Lightning,” moonshine gets its name because of the British Settlers who made it illegally at night (by the light of the moon)! Usually hidden in thick brush and deep in the mountains, its production is usually hard to find and some forms are still illegal. When prohibition hit in the 1920s, moonshine production took off in the Appalachian Mountains where it is still being made today.
Known as the first official drink of New Orleans, it was first served in 1838 by Antoine Amedie Peychaud, an apothecary who served his family and friends with his secret cocktail recipe that contained bitters mixed with French brandy. In 1873, absinthe was added to the drink and American rye whiskey became the liquor of choice in place of French brandy. In 1933, the Sazerac was officially bottled and the absinthe was replaced with Herbsaint. Today, the Herbsaint is mixed with sugar, rye whiskey or bourbon, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon peel.
Another drink that hails from New Orleans is the famous Pat O’Brien’s cocktail known for its fitting name. During prohibition, Pat O’Brien’s famous bar was actually a Speak Easy where customers would have to recite the words “Storm’s Brewin’” to be able to enter. Because prominent liquor (like Scotch) was hard to come by, the speak easy had an abundance of cheap rum. Bartender Louis Culligan then began mixing the rum into tasty red beverages served in glasses that looked like hurricane lamps which he proceeded to give to sailors that would stop in. Today, it is one of the most recognized drinks in Louisiana and a must-have beverage when visiting the Big Easy.
The Whiskey Sour
This yummy cocktail is a mixture of whiskey, sugar and a citrus (like lemon or pineapple). The common drink was first found in print in the 1862 book entitled, The Bartender’s Guide. Actual origins of the drink date back to when sailors and pirates sailed the high seas. Because scurvy was an issue, bartenders would mix a watered-down version of whiskey (so sailors could still sail) with a lemon (used to prevent scurvy). Thus, the first whiskey sour was born.