This classic Mint Julep recipe is the perfect Kentucky Derby Cocktail. Learn about the best bourbon to use, its ingredients and history.
For some amazing Derby Day appetizers, try my Pimento Cheese Arancini, Stuffed Cherry Peppers Wrapped with Bacon, Ham and Cheese Pinwheels with “Everything” Bagel Seasoning or Filet Mignon Bites with Creamy Horseradish Sauce.
This post is for all my bourbon lovers out there. I know there’s a big handful of you out there. And while I’m more of a vodka girl, I’m all about partaking in a classic mint julep when the Kentucky Derby rolls around each year.
And, year after year, I’ve set myself out to making the best mint julep recipe. With feedback from friends, I’m confident that I’ve mastered this classic cocktail. And I’m here to share my technique with you today!
First thing’s first…
Why does the Kentucky Derby Have a Mint Julep?
- As early as 1816, silver julep cups were offered as prizes at Kentucky county fairs.
- Legend is that Kentucky Derby founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. planted mint for cocktails when he founded the track in 1875.
- In 1939 the Mint Julep was declared the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
What Alcohol is in Mint Julep?
- Bourbon Whiskey
What is the Best Bourbon for a Mint Julep?
Since bourbon is the only liquid in the drink, you want to be sure to use a bourbon that you love. It’s recommended that you choose a bourbon that is around 100-proof since as the ice melts, your drink will become more diluted. However, you also don’t want to use your most expensive bourbon, for this same reason.
Here are some of the best bourbons for the Mint Julep, that come in at under $40 a bottle:
- Woodford Reserve: vanilla, butterscotch, smoke, oak (the official bourbon used at the Kentucky Derby) ($33)
- Four Roses Single Barrel: pear, cherry, toffee ($40)
- Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon: vanilla, orange, pepper ($20)
- Wild Turkey Rare Breed: oak, fruit, butterscotch ($40)
- Pure Kentucky XO: vanilla, cedar, cherry, oak ($40)
- Old Bardstown: caramel, orange, pine ($35)
- Maker’s Mark: vanilla, caramel, brown sugar (a lighter option a 90-proof) ($25)
Mint Julep Ingredients:
- Fresh Mint
- Simple Syrup
You will also need:
- Cocktail Muddler (or use the handle of a wooden spoon)
- Julep Cup or Rocks Glass
- Spoon Drink Straws (great for scooping out that ice)
- Crushed Ice
Tip: I purchased the crushed ice for my mint juleps at Sonic Burger. They sell it for $2 a bag! You can also make crushed ice by adding ice cubes to a food processor or blender, or crush it in a clean pillowcase with a rolling pin or other heavy object.
What Does Mint Julep Taste Like?
- Mint juleps are delightfully refreshing with a hint of sweetness but they still pack a punch from the whiskey. The longer you let it sit, the more diluted the bourbon will become and the more it will taste like mint.
Is Mint Julep a Girly Drink?
- Even though it’s a mixed drink, the Mint Julep isn’t a girly drink. It packs a serious punch with the bourbon whiskey. A couple of these and the afternoon can easily slip away from you.
Classic Cocktail Recipes
- Gin and Tonic Recipe // 3 Ways to Customize
- French 75 Cocktail Recipe
- Bees Knees Cocktail Recipe
- Aviation Cocktail Recipe
- Aperol Spritz
Classic Mint Julep Recipe
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 10 mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Mint sprig (to garnish)
- In a Julep cup or rocks glass, lightly muddle the mint and syrup with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon. You don’t want to break apart the mint, you just want release its aromatic oils.
- Add the bourbon and fill cup half full with ice. Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside.
- Add more ice to the cup and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!