If you’re searching for your own taste of Kentucky to get the fully immersive 2022 Kentucky Derby experience, we offer the famous Mint Julep recipe. In several forms. We talked to several mixologists and bartenders to offer you the classic Mint Julep recipe and some twists to spice up the flavor. You’re running out of time to pick up the ingredients to take your Kentucky Derby gathering to the next level.
The Mint Julep has been the beverage of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Nearly 120,000 are expected to be served over the weekend, requiring 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint. There’s no real romantic origin story of why the drink has become synonymous with the Kentucky Derby — the Mint Julep was served there and it gained popularity as the drink. Even Mental Floss — our go-to for things like this — came up relatively empty on any real fascinating history between the drink and the racetrack (although winning a silver julep cup at a state fair would’ve been pretty awesome).
In its simplest traditional form, a Mint Julep is made with fresh mint, bourbon (not whisky), simple syrup, and shaved or crushed ice. And from experience, we can tell you that using crushed ice is one of the most important parts of the quality of the drink. The Classic Mint Julep recipe on the Kentucky Derby website calls for the essential oils from the mint to be rubbed inside the glass; muddling the mint is an important step.
For all the hype, the Mint Julep isn’t a complicated cocktail. But we tried our best with the twists on the classic cocktail, below. And for one final pro tip — got get your mint NOW. Your local grocer will likely be wiped out by other amateur mixologists.
Classic Mint Julep recipe
- Leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 2 1/2 oz. bourbon
- In a mint julep cup or heavy bottom glass, gently muddle mint and simple syrup.
- Add crushed ice and bourbon, stir.
- Top with ice and a sprig of mint.
Now let’s have some fun…
The traditional Mint Julep is all well and good, but maybe it’s not for everyone. So we reached out to some expert mixologists and bartenders for a twist. The first two recipes come from contacts at the liquor companies themselves (yes, they aren’t all bourbon, but whatever. You’re home. No biggie). The third — the Hot Rod Julep — comes courtesy of Rabbit Hole’s resident mixologist Ashley Angel.
Jameson Honey Julep
- 1.5 Parts Jameson
- 0.75 Parts Irish honey syrup
- 8-10 mint leaves
How to mix: Mix one part honey with one part boiling water. Lightly press and roll mint leaves along a derby glass. Half fill glass with crushed ice and pour in half the liquid. Place more crushed ice on top and pour in remaining liquid. Garnish with mint sprig.
Smooth Ambler West Virginia Mulep
- 2 ounces Contradiction Bourbon
- 4-8 sprigs of fresh mint
- ¼ demerara syrup
- 2-3 ounces of ginger beer/ale
How to mix: In camping mug muddle mint in the syrup, add bourbon and crushed ice, stir down until the mug is chilled, dome with crushed ice, and add ginger beer/ale. Garnish with a mint sprig.
And if you’re really feeling ambitious…
Hot Rod Julep
- 1.5 oz Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
- 1 oz Blackberry Jalapeño-Infused Syrup (recipe below)
- 4-6 Basil Leaves
- Crushed ice
- G.H. Mumm Brut Champagne
- (For garnish) Basil Leaves, Jalapeño round slice, Blackberry
Ingredients (Simple Syrup – Recipe below):
- 1c Sugar
- 1c Water
- 10-15 Blackberries (rinsed)
- 1 Jalapeño
- Smack basil leaf to release aromatics and place in bottom of glass
- Add syrup
- Muddle leaf and syrup together
- Add small amount of ice and stir
- Add Rabbit Hole rye whiskey
- Top and “overflow” with ice for the classic julep appearance
- Pour to top cocktail with champagne (avoid pouring directly over ice which could cause melting)
- Garnish with smacked “expressed” basil leaves (bundle for appearance), round slice of jalapeño , and whole blackberry
Simple Syrup Recipe:
- Combine sugar and water in saucepan over stove and let simmer
- Meanwhile, muddle 10-15 blackberries and 1 whole jalapeño with seeds removed
- Once sugar is dissolved, remove syrup from heat
- Add fruit and jalapeño to syrup and let sit for fifteen minutes
- Strain and let cool
(Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)