The mint julep is an iconic bourbon cocktail that you definitely don't want to miss. Drinks that are this popular can sometimes seem difficult to make, but this recipe is actually incredibly easy and only requires a few ingredients.
Beyond the bourbon, sugar, and mint, the only other requirement for this drink is crushed ice. Other forms of ice won't create the same effect, so take the time to create a nice mound of crushed ice before mixing this cocktail. Traditionally, mint juleps are served in silver or pewter cups and held by the handle or rim so the cup maintains optimum frost. They work just as well in any tall glass.
The mint julep is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, which has helped propel the cocktail's popularity. Tens of thousands of mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs in Louisville and countless more are enjoyed by fans watching the race throughout the country. With a balance of sweet, smoky, and herbal flavors, mint juleps are delicious all year long.
Click Play to See This Kentucky Classic Mint Julep Recipe Come Together
- 4 to 5 mint sprigs (leaves only)
- 2 sugar cubes (or 1/2 ounce simple syrup)
- 2 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
- Garnish: mint sprig
Gather the ingredients.
Place the mint leaves and sugar or simple syrup into a julep cup, collins glass, or double old-fashioned glass.
Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and release the oil and aroma of the mint.
Add the bourbon.
Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir well until the glass becomes frosty.
Garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw and enjoy!
- Gently muddle your mint. The intention is to release the essential oils, not tear the leaves to bits.
- Making crushed ice without a machine is another use for your muddler: Place ice cubes in a Lewis bag (a cloth bag made specifically for this purpose) or wrap it in a towel and whack it until your cubes become finely crushed ice. (This is a wonderful and safe stress reliever, too.)
- Once you build the drink, take the time to stir it gently until the glass gets frosty. This should take at least 30 seconds, but the longer you do it, the better.
- Pour your favorite bourbon. It's best to choose one of the higher-end brands for the simple fact that bourbon is the julep's only liquid. Though it is sweetened and flavored, the whiskey is primarily what you will taste. Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, and Four Roses are all good options.
- Mint juleps are good for sipping, but also pair nicely with Southern appetizers. Try pairing with pickled shrimp, deviled eggs, and pimento cheese dip.
The mint julep has been around for so long that it has been adapted countless times. The technique for mixing it has been simplified and ingredients have been added or substituted to create new variations. While the classic cocktail is fantastic, it's fun to explore all your options.
- As an alternative to muddling the mint and sugar, you can infuse simple syrup with mint. You can skip right to pouring and stirring and it's a good way to preserve fresh mint that's starting to go bad.
- There are also many mint julep-inspired recipes to explore. You can enjoy a white peach julep or one that features ginger, for instance. Some take a completely different approach and swap the whiskey out for gin or brandy, too.
- The taste of the mint julep is also captured fantastically in a frozen ice pop. It's perfect for the hot days of summer.
How Strong Is a Mint Julep?
The mint julep has a pleasant taste but it includes a long shot of bourbon and little else to knock down its alcohol content. If you make it with an 80 proof whiskey, it should weigh in somewhere around 28 percent ABV (56 proof). The drink will be even stronger with higher proof bourbons. It's best to enjoy this one nice and slow.