The Mint Julep is a bourbon based cocktail and traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby.
Mint Julep History
The Mint Julep as we know it definitely originated in the American South in the late 18th to early 19th century. Back then, sweet infusions of medicine (known as juleps) were doled out as treatments for various ailments. The Mint Julep in particular involved mint steeped with spirituous liquor as a stomach remedy.
At some point folks started drinking Mint Juleps recreationally, mixing brandy, rum, and even gin into their sweet, minty concoctions. Bourbon became the standard liquor component, being cheaper and more readily available than other imported spirits. In the early 20th century the Mint Julep became the official drink of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
Mint Julep Tasting Notes
The Mint Julep has a minty, refreshing, herbaceous aroma and a sweet, rich bourbon flavor. As the ice melts the flavors change and intermingle—definitely a cocktail to be savored over time.
8-10 mint leaves: They should be fresh and springy. Avoid using limp or wilted mint. Reserve a sprig of mint for garnish.
½ ounce simple syrup: Mix equal parts sugar and water.
2 ounces bourbon: Any decent bourbon should work fine.
crushed ice: It should be coarse without being too wet or slushy. If it has random pea-sized chunks you’re fine.
mint sprig: as a garnish.
How to Make a Mint Julep
In a julep cup, add 8-10 mint leaves
Pour ½ oz simple syrup
Gently muddle the mint, bruising the leaves enough to release its flavors and aroma (if you end up with green paste you muddled too hard)
Pour 2 oz bourbon
Fill the cup ½ way with crushed ice and stir until the cup is chilled. Pro tip: a little frost should form on the outside of the cup
Fill with crushed ice until mounded over the lip of the cup
Garnish with the reserved mint sprig
Note: Silver or pewter julep cups are traditional, but copper mule mugs or rocks/Old Fashioned glasses may be used in a pinch.
The Mint Julep is already perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it.
Muddling fresh fruits such as apples, blackberries, or peaches with the mint fruity freshness.
For a sharp, zesty kick, try muddling fresh ginger along with the mint.
Try using simple syrups infused with fruits, berries, or fresh herbs, such as the premium flavored syrups offered by Cocktail Artist.
Mint Juleps were historically made with different spirits, so feel free to experiment using brandy, rum, or gin without fear of offending any purists.
If bourbon is unavailable (or isn’t your thing), consider using rye whiskey, brandy, gin, or rum (see Variations above).
Substitute simple syrup withagave nectar. Consider reducing the amount used, as agave nectar is very sweet.
Honeymay be used as an alternative to simple syrup. Use a mixture of equal parts honey and water to reduce the honey’s thick viscosity.
When to Serve a Mint Julep
The Mint Julep is a relaxing sipper, making it the perfect cocktail for relaxing daytime activities. Consider carefully before adding to the menu however, as crushing ice for each cocktail can get pretty labor-intensive If planning to serve Mint Juleps at your next event, we recommend either providing a ready supply of crushed ice or recruiting a dedicated bartender to make the cocktails for you.
Kentucky Derby Parties: The traditional cocktail of Churchill Downs, no Kentucky Derby viewing party is complete without Mint Juleps.
Outdoor formal events/garden parties: bright silver cups, warm sunshine, big floppy sun hats, seersucker suits—you get the idea.
Cookouts and barbecues: Mint Juleps are perfect for any relaxed outdoor cooking affair.
Sitting on the porch: That’s it. Just sitting on the porch.
What to Serve with a Mint Julep
Southern food, like fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, boiled peanuts, pimento cheese, barbecue, etc.
Burgoo, a spicy, meaty stew traditionally served at the Kentucky Derby.