This iconic bourbon mixed drink is popular the first weekend of May during the Kentucky Derby Festival, but with fresh mint, a drop of simple syrup and your favorite bourbon is a drink that can be enjoyed all year long.
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Why this mint julep recipe is the best
This is a classic recipe that works every time. Because there are no fancy ingredients, you will get a good result every time you make it. The great taste depends mostly on using bourbon that you like, a clean simple syrup and fresh mint leaves. Keep those ingredients quality and be sure to used crushed ice and you'll have a perfect cocktail every time.
“Some folks will tell you a mint julep has powdered sugar and some people tell you to buy a bottle of pre-made mint julep mix that you just pour over ice and add a sprig of mint too. But those of us raised in Kentucky know the tried and true recipe...”-Karen Katz, Louisville native, foodie and awesome person all around
A few notes on the ingredients:
- Simple syrup: You can buy it or make it yourself. Simple syrup is one part water to one part sugar. I make it with one cup of each, bring to a boil and then let reduce by about half. You can store this in the fridge for up to a month.
- Bourbon: You can use any bourbon you have on hand, but you want to choose something you like drinking. It doesn't have to be the fanciest bottle you can find because you are going to be mixing it into a classic cocktail.
How to make a classic mint julep
To make things even simpler, here are step-by-step photos to help you every step of the way.
Start with a mason jar or a silver mint julep cup.
Muddle the mint leaves at the bottom of each glass, gently. You want to get the essence of the mint out with our totally crushing the leaves.
Then add the simple syrup and the bourbon.
Now, you’ll add crushed ice to fill the glass and top it off with another splash of bourbon and spring of mint.
Enjoy with friends while watching the Kentucky Derby races or whenever you need a refreshing cocktail.
For all measurements and a more detailed guide, check out the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m not a bourbon expert, but I luckily live with one. My husband says to use the best bourbon you can afford. He recommends Elijah Craig, Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel or Knob Creek Single Barrel if you don’t have any stocked in your bar right now.
Gently! You want to just bring out the essential oils in the leaves and have the aroma get into your drink. You don’t want them to be smashed to smithereens. Use a muddler if you have one. If you don’t, the end of a spatula or other kitchen tool will work as well.
Yes, with some caution. You’ll want to mix the simple syrup and bourbon together in the same 1:2 ratio as in the recipe. Put that in a large pitcher and leave on the bar or in the fridge. When it’s time to make a drink, muddle the mint in each glass, fill the glass part way with the bourbon mixture, top with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
Please don’t add the ice to the pitcher or you will end up with very watery mint julep’s that won’t taste good at all. You also want to muddle the mint fresh for each drink so as to get the most flavor and aroma out of the leaves as possible.
How to make crushed ice
If you have a refrigerator that crushes it for you awesome! You’ll want to start collecting the crushed ice in a giant zip top bag and leaving it in your freezer so you don’t run out when you are ready to make the mint juleps.
Another option is to simply blend ice cubes in a blender (my Vitamix did a great job) or food processor until just crushed.
Last choice, but still works is to put the ice in a bag and smash it with a hammer or on the ground until is nicely crushed. It’s a little more effort, but will work.
One more simple tip
If you bought too much mint and want to find a good use for it, try making a mint infused simple syrup. Simply put the mint leaves in the pot while you are making the simple syrup and that’s it. Use it when you make another batch of mint juleps, in hot tea or any other cocktail recipe that calls for mint and simple syrup, like this mojito from my friend Katy at MittenGirl.com
Looking for more Kentucky inspired recipes? Try these:
When you try this recipe and love it 😍 let me know by leaving a comment below or 5 ⭐ rating!
Classic Mint Julep
- 1 oz simple syrup more or less depending on how sweet you like it
- 2 oz bourbon
- 4-5 mint leaves
- crushed ice enough to fill glass
- Add mint leaves to the glass and muddle (crush) gently to release the essential oils.
- Add the simple syrup and the bourbon and stir.
- Top with crushed ice to fill the glass.
- Pour another drop or two of bourbon over the top and garnish with sprig of mint.
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