The julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in the 1930s after more than a decade of prohibition's inferior homemade liquor gave rise to elaborate cocktails to mask the swill. But its origins go much further back than the Volstead Act. Unverifiable tales say the mint julep made its debut when an 18th century Kentucky man searching near the Mississippi River for water to add to his bourbon found wild mint instead. He added some to his cocktail and began a southern tradition. How did we get to mint leaves in a canteen to $1,000 juleps in silver cups with gold plated straws? Oddly enough, it's temperance crusaders. From the 1890s, when zealots made it their business to impose themselves on America’s pleasures, to the 1950s, when America’s tastes for cocktails were still informed by the heavy mixers of the prohibition years, the mint julep was the unofficial drink of the entire South.