Whether you love bourbon, mint, or big fancy hats, this mint julep recipe is the perfect cocktail for your derby party, or a relaxing afternoon by yourself.
HISTORY OF THE KENTUCKY DERBY MINT JULEP
The mint julep has been around since the 1700’s, and was originally prescribed as a medicinal remedy. That’s my kind of medicine!
The term “julep” is basically a sweet drink, usually used for giving medicine. The word itself is derived from the Spanish word “julepe”.
But it wasn’t until 1938 that the mint julep began being promoted by Churchill Downs as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. And promote it they have!
Each year almost 120,000 mint juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby. Also, in 2006, they began serving $1000 mint juleps as well, in gold plated cups with silver straws, made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, spring water ice cubes from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. The proceeds go to charities for retired race horses. Those folks from Brown Forman know how to party!
But the good news is you don’t have to go to the Kentucky Derby to enjoy a fantastic mint julep.
MINT JULEP INGREDIENTS
Okay, so what is in a mint julep? While there is a history of mint juleps being made with brandy, the traditional mint julep is made with Kentucky bourbon, a mint syrup (made from fresh mint leaves and simple syrup), and served over crushed ice.
HOW TO MAKE A MINT JULEP
- The best mint julep starts with a good simple syrup, so mix equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes.
- Let the syrup cool, then pour into a jar with 6 large mint leaves. Make sure to bruise or muddle the leaves slightly to release their oils before you add the simple syrup.
- Seal the jar and store in the fridge overnight. (if this is a last minute drink, just muddle the mint in the syrup and strain. The balance of flavors in your mint julep will be a little different, but it will still taste good)
- The next day, strain your leaves out, and you’re ready to make your mint julep.
- Pour 2 ounces of bourbon, a tablespoon (or ½ ounce) of mint syrup, and some ice into a cocktail shaker and shake well.
- Fill a silver julep cup with crushed ice (I use my blender to crush it) and pour your mint julep over it.
- Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and serve with a short straw (I just cut down a pretty paper straw).
WHAT KIND OF MINT IS USED IN A MINT JULEP?
Spearmint is the traditional mint used in a mint julep. That’s the typical mint known as garden mint and found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Sometimes it’s peppermint instead, but most won’t notice the difference.
You can also feel free to get creative and experiment. Chocolate mint? Pineapple mint? There’s definitely some room to play with flavors.
WHERE CAN I BUY MINT JULEP CUPS?
While you could definitely serve your mint juleps in an old fashioned glass or a highball glass, there’s something special about drinking it from a silver julep cup (even if silver is just the color not the metal!).
You can typically find mint julep cups in any store that sells a large variety of kitchen and dining inventory. They are also readily available online.
Most people don’t drink mint juleps often enough that they want an actual sterling silver mint julep cup, and I don’t think they’re worth the price tag in the hundreds of dollars!
My favorite mint julep cup, which I used in the photos, is this 12 oz beaded julep cup. I love the matte finish, and the beading design, and it has held up quite well for me.
Whatever you serve your mint julep recipe in, just make sure it’s garnished with mint and you’ll be good to go.
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Classic Mint Julep Recipe
Whether you love bourbon, mint, or big fancy hats, this mint julep recipe is the perfect cocktail for your derby party, or a relaxing afternoon by yourself. The recipe makes a 16 servings of mint syrup, so you'll have plenty for future cocktails. The preparation time does not include the recommendation to refrigerate your syrup overnight. You can also choose to keep your mint julep traditional, or add some soda water if you like fizzy cocktails. Adapted with permission from Genius Kitchen.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water, preferable branch
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 ounces Bourbon, premium Kentucky
- 1 tablespoon mint syrup
- 1 mint sprig
- 1/2 cup ice cubes
- ice, crushed
- soda water, optional
- Mix sugar and water in a saucepan then bring to a boil, while stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat & let cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Muddle 6 mint leaves in a glass jar to release their oils.
- Pour cooled syrup over mint, seal tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
- When you're ready to make your julep, strain the syrup to remove the leaves.
- Add bourbon, mint syrup & ice cubes to a cocktail shaker.
- Shake it up!
- Fill a small glass or julep cup with crushed ice. Pour the cocktail over the ice. At this point you can add a splash of soda water if you're not a traditionalist.
- Top with a fresh mint sprig and serve with a short straw perfect for sipping.