The Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Recipe

Wondering how to make a mint julep for the next Kentucky Derby? You’ve come to the right place! I’m sharing my Kentucky Derby Mint Julep recipe!

The History of the Mint Julep

It is thought that the Mint Julep is derived from the ancient Arabic and Persian drink called ‘Julab,’ meaning ‘rose water.’ 

Unsurprisingly that drink was made from crushed rose petals and water. When the recipe moved to the Mediterranean, the rose petals were replaced with the more commonly found and more economical mint leaves.

Soon after, an alcoholic version began to gain favor. Many spirits were used, such as vodka, rum, absinthe, the list was endless.

As the Mint Julep made it’s a voyage to America, the alcohol of choice was bourbon, and this is still the spirit most commonly thought of when requesting a Mint Julep. In the late 1700s, the average Southern planter would have a Mint Julep before breakfast as both a kick start and to ward off malaria. It is now the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Mint Juleps have actually been made with just about every spirit there is. While the name changes with what is in it (mint mojito anyone?), an official mint julep like they serve at the Kentucky Derby is served with bourbon whiskey such as Woodford Reserve. Here’s how to make one!

How to Make a Mint Julep - Pinterest Pin

A Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Recipe

Here are the mint julep ingredients you’ll need:

  • Fresh mint leaves – 2 – 3 fresh leaves (increase if you like it more minty)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup – also known as simple syrup
  • 6 crushed ice cubes to make ice chips
  • 2-3 oz of bourbon whiskey – I would opt for the smoothest one possible!

Prep instructions:

  1. Put one sprig of mint leaves and sugar syrup in a small glass and mash together using a teaspoon. 
  2. For best results, you’ll want to leave the mixture to stand alone for about 5 minutes. This gives the mint and sugar syrup the chance to fully blend.
  3. Add the ice chips and bourbon. Decorate with the other sprig of mint.

That’s all there is to it! You now know how to make a mint julep for your next Kentucky Derby party!

Alternative Mint Julep Recipes

  • Frozen Mint Julep is a slush style drink. Put 6 mint leaves, 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup, 8 ice cubes, 2 measures of bourbon, and a tablespoon of lemon into a food processor and blend until slushy. Pour into a tall glass.
  • Brandy Julep: pour 2 measures of brandy, 1 teaspoon of sugar syrup, and 4 mint leaves over a tumbler of crushed ice.
  • Virgin Mint Julep: If you opt to make this a non alcoholic beverage you just need 1 sprig of mint along with a teaspoon or so of the simple syrup, a splash of lemon juice (about a teaspoon) and 3 oz or so of cola. Then, just add the ice chips, stir and serve

Final Touches

If you’re feeling fancy, you can add a little more to your Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Recipe. Here are a few examples of things you can decorate the glass with:

  • a sprig of mint
  • a slice of lemon
  • a slice of orange
  • a slice of pineapple
  • a slice of cucumber
  • raspberries
  • Strawberries

If you like Mint Juleps, you might also like Mojitos, another mint-based drink with a completely different history. But for now, if you dream of sitting in a rocking chair on a veranda in the Deep South as the sun sets at the end of a long, heady hot day, then my Mint Julep recipe should be your cocktail of choice.