Place your bets and dig out your fanciest hats, because it’s Kentucky Derby season, and that means a round of Mint Juleps is definitely in my foreseeable future.
This legendary cocktail is one of my party mainstays; bourbon, mint, and a bit of sugar come together to make something strong, sweet, and totally refreshing.
A Julep is just what you need while at the races, or at the very least, after a long day of digging all that wild mint out of your garden. Either way, this sublime drink is a sure bet on warm spring days.
Making juleps for a crowd? Click and slide the number next to ‘servings’ on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re serving—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What’s a Mint Julep?
The Mint Julep is a mixed drink, made with bourbon, water, crushed or shaved ice, and the freshest mint. It’s a quintessentially Southern cocktail and since 1938 it has been enjoyed by thousands at Churchill Downs during the two-day Kentucky Derby. Every year, as many as 120,000 juleps are made. That’s a whole lot of mint!
Why do you use silver cups for Mint Juleps?
Traditionally, Mint Juleps were often served in prized silver or pewter cups so they’d get frosty. If you’re lucky enough to have some, try holding the cocktail only by the bottom and top edges of the cup, so the frost covers the outside of the cup. If you don’t have any on hand, fear not: you can use an old-fashioned glass or a highball glass. This drink is so good, it hardly matters!
This is the one I have as seen in the photos (Amazon affiliate link).
What bourbon is best for Mint Juleps?
As you might imagine, there are lots of opinions on this, but Woodford Reserve seems to be a crowd favorite; any Kentucky bourbon you have on hand will do.
Can you use other alcohol in a Mint Julep?
During the 1800s, an aged gin called Genever could also be used with mint for juleps. Bourbon is today’s classic ingredient, but I certainly won’t stop you from experimenting.
How do you crush ice for a Mint Julep?
Even if you have a crushed ice feature on your refrigerator, it’s so fun to make your own. I use an old school canvas bag and a wooden mallet like this one, filling up the bag and whacking away until the cubes are small enough to be heaped high into each cup.
How do you make simple syrup?
It’s simple! Add equal amounts of water and sugar together. First, I heat the water to just boiling, then I pour it over the sugar, stir, and allow the mixture to cool. I keep it in a squirt bottle for convenience while making cocktails.
Mint Julep Recipe
- 1 teaspoon sugar (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon water (see notes)
- 8 mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon or more to taste
- Mint sprigs for garnish
- In a julep cup or tall glass, combine sugar and water and stir to dissolve. Add mint leaves and muddle in the bottom of the glass.
- Fill half the glass with ice. Add bourbon and stir to combine. Top with more ice and stir until the glass is frosty. Garnish generously with mint sprigs.
- 2 teaspoons simple syrup can be substituted for the 1 teaspoon sugar + 1 teaspoon water.