The mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. And while we may not get the chance to sip them at Churchill Downs, we can still enjoy this cool and refreshing bourbon cocktail all summer long.
For those who aren't familiar, a mint julep is bourbon, muddled with fresh mint and plenty of ice, sweetened with a little sugar syrup. They are traditionally served in frosted pewter beakers at the races, but if you don't have one at home a cool hi-ball glass will do.
Read on to learn how to make the best mint julep – we have a couple of twists on the classic recipe, too – then check out our other cocktail recipes for more happy hours at home.
How to make a mint julep
This is a basic mint julep recipe. It calls for simple syrup (sugar syrup) which you don't have to buy – you can easily make your own at home, see our sugar syrup recipe below.
Different recipes call for different amounts of mint with anywhere from two to 10 leaves, but we have found six is a good number for that fresh zing without it tasting like mouthwash. You can use a bit less bourbon if you like (two to three ounces is recommended) and we go easy on the sugar syrup but those with a sweeter tooth can add a bit more. What is key though is plenty of ice to mix and serve.
Buy bourbon online:
- 3oz bourbon
- 6 mint leaves
- 1/4oz sugar syrup
- Plenty of crushed ice
- dash of water
- Sprig of mint to serve
1. Muddle the mint and sugar syrup in your julep cup or glass of choice. This is to release the aromas of the mint.
2. Add your bourbon and give it a quick stir.
3. Fill the cup with crushed ice and give it all a good mix – the cup should become frosty (this could take 30 seconds to a minute).
4. Top up with a dash of water if you like and garnish with a sprig of mint to serve.
Mint julep variations
The mint julep is refreshing but strong for some tastes, so if you want a longer drink to sip on a hot day, try one of these mint julep recipes. These ideas are courtesy of Natalie's Orchid Island Juices.
Iced tea lemonade mint julep
- 2oz bourbon
- 1/4oz sugar syrup
- 4–6oz Natalie's Lemonade Tea
- Sprig of mint to garnish
1. Fill a glass with ice.
2. Add the sugar syrup and bourbon.
3. Top up with the lemonade tea and stir well.
4. Garnish with the mint to serve.
Orange beet mint julep
- 1–2oz bourbon
- 1tbsp mint sugar syrup (shop bought or see how to make below)
- 3oz Natalie's Orange Beet Juice
- Club soda
- Fresh mint
- Orange slices to garnish
1. Fill a 12oz cup with ice.
2. Add the orange beet juice, mint sugar syrup and bourbon then mix well. Top with soda and stir again.
3. Garnish with the fresh mint and orange slice.
Mint sugar syrup: Mix 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves in a pan. Bring to a boil and the sugar should dissolve, then take off the heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes to the syrup takes on the flavor of the mint. Strain into a bottle and store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
How to make your own sugar syrup
If you don't have sugar syrup (sometimes called simple syrup), it is really easy to make your own. You just need a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, so 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. Dissolve the sugar into the water in a pan over a low heat.
Once dissolved allow to cool a little, before bottling. This can be stored in the fridge and used for all your favorite cocktails.