Classic Mint Julep Recipe and Winning Variations

Mint Julep in Kentucky Derby Style Metal Cup

The mint julep is a cocktail that's shrouded in tradition. It conjures up visions of brightly patterned jockeys and their racehorses every year. Yet, the drink's simple formula makes it a great refreshment to enjoy even outside of the Kentucky Derby. So, put your elaborate derby hats on and take your pewter cups out of the cabinet because it's time to experiment with one of the best drink recipes around.

Classic Mint Julep Recipe

The classic mint julep requires you to muddle about ten mint leaves with simple syrup and bourbon before mixing and straining your drink over crushed ice into a customary pewter cup. Add as many mint sprigs as you'd like for a garnish and be sure to only grip your drink from the top or the bottom so the ice can create a lovely looking frost across the pewter.

Mint juleps in cups

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a julep cup, muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup together to release the mint flavors.
  2. Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the bourbon and stir vigorously until the cup frosts. Mound an additional amount of crushed ice over the top so it domes like a snow cone.
  3. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Mint Julep Variations

As is common with many older cocktail recipes, the mint julep is a blank slate in terms of flavor, which makes it a perfect drink to customize and experiment with. Try out some of these variations on the original recipe and see which ones that you like best.

Blackberry Mint Julep

You'll find wild blackberries all throughout the American South, which makes them a perfect pairing for the original mint julep recipe. To make a blackberry mint julep, just add blackberries to your muddle mixture, and you're off to the races.

Blackberry Mint Julep

Ingredients

  • 8 mint leaves
  • 5 blackberries
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a julep cup, muddle the mint leaves, blackberries, and simple syrup.
  2. Fill with crushed ice and pour in the bourbon. Stir to frost the outside of the glass.
  3. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Garden Mint Julep

This botanical mint julep combines cucumbers with mint, simple syrup, and gin for a garden aroma and a refreshing flavor.

Homemade Derby Mint Julep

Ingredients

  • 10 mint leaves
  • 5 cucumber slices
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces gin
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a julep cup, muddle the mint leaves, cucumber slices, and simple syrup.
  2. Fill the cup with crushed ice. Add the gin and stir vigorously to frost the outside of the cup.
  3. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Ginger Mint Julep

If you find your mint juleps to be a bit one-note for your personal taste, you can add ginger to the mixture for a subtle pop of spice. This recipe incorporates the ginger by using a ginger simple syrup and adding a splash of ginger beer on top for a fizzy mouthful.

Homemade Kentucky Mint Julep

Ingredients

  • 10 mint leaves
  • ¼ ounce ginger simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig for garnish
  • Splash of ginger beer
  • Mint sprig for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a julep cup, muddle the mint leaves and ginger simple syrup together.
  2. Fill the cup with crushed ice. Add the bourbon and stir vigorously to frost the outside of the glass.
  3. Top off with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig

Frozen Mint Julep

On those especially hot summer days, you can whip up this frozen mint julep for yourself. Just combine mint simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice together in a blender and mix it to your desired consistency.

Frozen Bourbon Mint Julep

Ingredients

  • ½ ounce mint simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 cups crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a blender, combine the mint simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice.
  2. Mix the ingredients together until well blended and pour the mixture into a chilled julep cup.
  3. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

Southern Mint Julep

The only way a mint julep could get any more southern is if you added tea to it, which this Southern mint julep recipes does. By bringing the mint, lemon juice, tea-infused simple syrup, and bourbon together, you'll be transported to your grandma's concrete front porch where you bat both flies and mosquitoes away from your delicious drink.

Two mint julep on a table Cancel Create

Ingredients

  • 10 mint leaves
  • ¼ ounce tea-infused simple syrup
  • Half of a fresh lemon
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 mint sprig for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a julep cup, combine the mint leaves and tea-infused simple syrup. Squeeze half of the lemon into the mixing glass and muddle the ingredients together.
  2. Fill the cup with ice and add the bourbon. Stir vigorously until the outside of the cup frosts.
  3. Garnish with a mint sprig.

The Mythology Behind the Mint Julep

While the mint julep has been being mixed since long before the Kentucky Derby, its adoption as the Kentucky Derby's official drink in 1939 caused it to reach legendary status. Members of high society frequented this yearly affair, and the social elite began rotating the mint julep within its own circles and drink menus across the globe after. However, even before its association with the Kentuck Derby, the mint julep was popularized in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which put the drink on the cultural map. Part of its continued popularity is the tradition surrounding it, and the pomp and circumstance associated with holding your pewter cup just so.

You're Off to the Races

With all of these delicious Mint Julep recipes, you and your friends are going to be off to the races in no time flat. Blessedly, the mint julep isn't a trade secret of the Kentucky Derby, and you can enjoy its minty heat long after the ribbons have been awarded.

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Classic Mint Julep Recipe and Winning Variations