I can’t help but admire the variety of designs of julep strainers that were manufactured over 100 years ago. Size, shape of bowl and handle, cut-out design and pattern were varied. A sampling is shown below.
I vaguely recall that the origin of the word “julep” went back centuries and referred to rose water. I believe it was traced back to the Middle East or India and the original word was “julab”. Searching the internet, I found “julap” mentioned in a 1770 book, “The Modern Practice of the London Hospitals”:
A “common julap” is mentioned in this book and was comprised of water, brandy and simple syrup. There was no suggestion as to what this julap was used for…certainly it must be good for what ails you; perhaps the doctors imbibed in this version. A little further down is “mint julap” which has mint water, conserve of roses and acid elixir of vitriol (a sulfate of any of various metals such as copper, iron or zinc). This julap was definitely medicinal in nature and said to be good for the stomach.
The next page had another recipe for Mint Julap which was attributed to Vide St. Thomas’s Hospital. This julap had mint water, spirit of mint and simple syrup. No mention of what this julap was used for. But right above it is the “Hysteric Julap” with pennyroyal in it. Pennyroyal is from the mint family. It has a very strong scent and if memory serves me right, I believe it was used to rub on cats to ward off fleas (and possibly prevent hysteric cats).
Another book which mentions “juleps” is the 1796 “Every Woman Her Own House-keeper”. This, too, features medicinal julep recipes. The camphorated julep could also be used for “hysterical and other complaints”. I guess there was a lot of hysteria going around in the 1700s.
The next page was taken from the 1912, “An American Glossary”. The word “julep” is about half way down. What is interesting is that it states “The word itself is about five hundred years old”. There are a few references on this page of people drinking juleps (the kind with liquor in it) for breakfast. Now that’s an incentive to get out of bed….
Poems were even inspired by juleps…
The evidence shows that julabs, julaps and juleps go back for many centuries. The strainers don’t have quite that long a history (at least as far as I know). But they did come in handy once iced drinks appeared on the scene. They were served with the drink to keep the ice (along with the mint, fruit, whatever) back from the imbiber’s mouth and teeth.
The strainer below is rather a rare one. The bowl is extremely shallow. It is shown next to a correspondending illustration on a page from the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog.
The strainers shown below (and more) are available at my Etsy shop.