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If you’re looking for your own taste of Kentucky to fully experience the 2022 Kentucky Derby, we offer the famous Mint Julep recipe. In multiple forms. We spoke to multiple mixologists and bartenders to bring you the classic mint julep recipe and a few twists to spice things up. You’re running out of time to gather the ingredients to take your Kentucky Derby meet to the next level.
The mint julep has been the drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Almost 120,000 are expected to be poured over the weekend, requiring 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint. There’s no truly romantic origin story as to why the drink has become synonymous with the Kentucky Derby – the mint julep was served there and gained popularity that Drink. Even Mental Floss – our go-to for such things – came up relatively empty on a truly intriguing history between the drink and the racetrack (although winning a Silver Julep Cup at a state fair would have been pretty awesome).
In its simplest traditional form, a mint julep is made with fresh mint, bourbon (not whiskey), simple syrup, and shaved or crushed ice. And from experience we can tell you that the use of 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 mint essential oils to be rubbed into the jar; Confusing the mint is an important step.
Despite all the hype, the mint julep is not a complicated cocktail. But we’ve tried our best with the variations on the classic cocktail below. And for one last pro tip – get your mints NOW. Your local grocer is likely to be wiped out by fellow amateur mixologists.
Classic mint julep recipe
- Leaves from 4-5 sprigs of mint
- 1/2 ounce. simple syrup
- 2 1/2 oz. bourbon
- In a mint julep mug or heavy-bottomed glass, gently mash the 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 it might not be for everyone. So we turned to some experienced mixologists and bartenders to find a twist. The first two recipes come from contacts at the liquor companies themselves (yes, they’re not all bourbon, but whatever. You’re home. No big deal). The third – the Hot Rod Julep – comes courtesy of Ashley Angel, Rabbit Hole’s mixologist.
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. Gently press the mint leaves and roll them along a derby glass. Half fill the glass with crushed ice and pour in half the liquid. Top with more crushed ice and pour in the remaining liquid. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Smooth Ambler West Virginia Mulep
- 2 ounces contradiction bourbon
- 4-8 sprigs of fresh mint
- ¼ Demerara syrup
- 2-3 ounces ginger beer/ale
How to mix: In camp mug, stir mint into syrup, add bourbon and crushed ice, stir until mug is chilled, couple with crushed ice and add ginger beer/ale. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
And if you’re really 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
- GH Mumm Brut champagne
- (For garnish) Basil leaves, round slice of jalapeño, blackberry
ingredients (Simple Syrup – recipe below):
- 1c sugar
- 1c water
- 10-15 blackberries (rinsed)
- 1 jalapeno
- Pat the basil leaf to release the flavors and place in the bottom of the jar
- Add syrup
- Muddle leaf and syrup together
- Add a small amount of ice and stir
- Add Rabbit Hole Rye Whiskey
- Top and overflow with ice for the classic julep look
- Top up the cocktail with champagne (avoid pouring directly over ice as it may melt)
- Garnish with crushed “expressed” basil leaves (bunches for looks), a round slice of jalapeño, and a whole blackberry
Easy Syrup Recipe:
- Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan over the stove and let simmer
- Meanwhile, mash 10-15 blackberries and 1 whole jalapeño with seeds
- Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the syrup from the heat
- Add the fruit and jalapeño to the syrup and let sit for 15 minutes
- Strain and let cool
(Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)