Beverages, Recipes

Mint Julep (Classic Cocktail Recipe)

A frosty mint julep is just what you need to beat the summer heat!

Minty, boozy, and ice-cold, this classic cocktail is worthy of celebrating. Made with bourbon, mint, and simple syrup, it’s refreshing and sophisticated.

Homemade Iced Cold Mint Julep

When the Kentucky Derby rolls around, there’s only one drink on everybody’s mind. The mint julep!

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It’s a time-honored tradition, just like those big floppy hats. The blend of fresh mint, smooth bourbon, and simple syrup is so refreshing.

And this recipe is enough to serve a crowd. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re heading to the races or cooling off in the heat. The mint julep is the drink of champions.

Mint Julep 

When it comes to boozy refreshments, the mint julep takes the lead for first place. It’s a classic featuring bourbon, mint, and simple syrup served on crushed ice. 

Traditionally, it comes in a silver pewter cup, keeping it frosty to the touch. But any glass packed to the brim with ice will do. 

Simple and refined, the mint julep is a quintessential warm-weather sipper. Most recognize it as the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Back in the 1930s, it earned the crown of the official beverage. And the tradition holds strong to this very day. 

Over 100,000 people get served at the Churchill Downs over the 2-day event! 

But you don’t need to be at the races to enjoy this libation. All you need are quality ingredients and a secret twist. 

Want to know what it is? Homemade mint simple syrup! Boozy, sweet, and fresh, you’ll love it.

In true Kentucky Derby fashion, this recipe makes plenty of drinks. So there’s enough for a party.

Refreshing Mint Julep

Ingredients 

Choosing the right ingredients is the key to creating a Kentucky Derby-worthy mint julep. It doesn’t call for a whole lot. So quality matters!

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Here’s what you need to make a mint julep. 

  • Mint simple syrup – Water, white sugar, and mint leaves make the homemade mint simple syrup extra refreshing. But you can use store-bought in a pinch.
  • Crushed ice – It’s not a julep if it’s not served on crushed ice. Leave those jumbo cubes for other bourbon cocktails like the old-fashioned.
  • Bourbon – Choose a quality Kentucky bourbon like Woodford Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel, or Maker’s Mark.
  • Mint – Extra fresh mint sprigs for a garnish are a must.

How to Make a Mint Julep

Traditionally, the mint julep entails muddling mint. But not this version. Instead, you add it to the simple syrup for a super minty infusion.

Here’s how to make this mint julep. 

  1. Make the mint simple syrup. Boil water, white sugar, and mint in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Stir occasionally. Let it cool for 1 hour. Strain it to remove and discard the mint leaves.
  2. Pack the glass with crushed ice. Pack each glass to the brim with crushed ice. It should look like a snow cone.
  3. Add bourbon and simple syrup. Pour the bourbon and mint simple syrup over the ice. 
  4. Garnish and sip. Garnish each drink with fresh mint, and enjoy.
Boozy Mint Julep Garnished With Fresh Mints

Tips for the Best Cocktail

Looking to make your cocktails top-notch? Then you need these nifty tips! 

  • Get ahead of yourself. Make the simple syrup in advance. It cuts down the prep work when it’s cocktail time. Plus, it gives the simple syrup plenty of time to cool.
  • Be generous with the ice. You want the drink to be ice-cold but not frozen. It is a julep, after all. 
  • Be picky with your glass. A classic mint julep comes in a silver pewter cup. As a substitute, use an old-fashioned or a highball glass instead.
  • Tailor the sweetness to your liking. Make it more or less sweet by adjusting the simple syrup to taste.
  • High-quality bourbon is key! There are few ingredients in this cocktail, so quality matters. Opt for quality bourbon and pay attention to proof. The higher the proof, the stronger the drink.
  • Adjust the servings. This recipe makes eight cocktails. So you can adjust the serving size according to your needs.

Variations 

If you’re a fan of the mint julep, you’re in luck. There are many variations for you to try. 

Here are a handful of recommendations. 

  • Muddled mint julep. Instead of simple syrup, muddle fresh mint and sugar.
  • Peach mint julep. Muddle fresh peaches and add a squeeze of lemon to make it pop.
  • Thin mint julep. If you love Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, try this! It has all the mint julep staples plus creme de cacao.
  • Napoleon julep. It features cognac, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, green tea syrup, bitters, and mint.
  • Gin on gin julep. Prefer gin cocktails? Give this one a whirl. It has gin, ginger, mint, simple syrup, and club soda.
Iced Cold Mint Julep in Glass

Traditional Way to Serve a Mint Julep 

There’s only one way to serve a traditional mint julep, and that’s in a silver cup. 

Those beautiful serving vessels keep the cocktail nice and frosty. It also resembles the silver cup award given to the winning Kentucky Derby jockey.

As for imbibing, it’s best to hold the cup at the base or the lip. It helps keep your hand from warming up the cocktail.

If you don’t have a silver cup, don’t stress.

You can use a highball or an old-fashioned glass. Another option is to freeze a silver goblet. It may not be tradition, but it works all the same.

What’s the Difference Between a Mint Julep and a Mojito?

Similar to the mint julep, the mojito is big on mint. But make no mistake, these are very different drinks. 

The mojito is a Cuban cocktail. It features white rum, lime, mint, simple syrup, and club soda.

The mint julep is a cocktail with Southern roots featuring bourbon, mint, and simple syrup. 

Despite their differences, both are refreshing thirst-quenchers on a hot day.

Mint Julep