10 Mint Julep Recipes for the Kentucky Derby

A Timeless Cocktail That Continues to Inspire

The mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. The combination of fresh mint and bourbon creates a fantastic springtime cocktail. While it's held in high regard, the mint julep is uncomplicated, and anyone can mix one up.

Today's mint julep is a simple mix of bourbon whiskey, sugar, and fresh mint. According to David Wondrich's book, "Imbibe!," it has been around since the Revolutionary War. Bourbon was not always the spirit of choice; brandy and gin were also commonly used in "smash" drinks. That same customization has continued over the years. From comparable classics to modern interpretations, you'll find a diverse mix of flavors in cocktails inspired by the julep.

The one thing you will need to create any of these cocktails is a good muddler. It's an essential bar tool that is vital for releasing the aromatics from the mint and other ingredients in the initial smash. The muddler is also useful for crushing ice, which is a requirement for many juleps.

  • 01 of 10

    The Classic Mint Julep

    Mint Julep

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    The classic recipe for a mint julep is straightforward, and it has a refreshing taste you won't find in any other cocktail. Quite simply, it's a shot of your favorite bourbon poured over muddled mint and sugar, then topped with crushed ice.

    For an authentic Kentucky Derby experience, pick up a silver julep cup. It's a small touch that adds elegance to the occasion and ensures your julep stays frosty to the end.

  • 02 of 10

    Whiskey Smash

    Jerry Thomas' Classic Whiskey Smash Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    As classic as the mint julep, the whiskey smash is nearly the same drink. It dates back to at least the 1880s and is one of the most refreshing smash drinks you can mix up.

    This classic whiskey recipe brings lemon into the mix. It gives the drink a semi-tart background that is fascinating against the crisp taste of fresh spearmint. It typically uses less crushed ice and makes an excellent option for race day. 

  • 03 of 10

    Brandy Smash

    Classic Brandy Smash Cocktail

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    Though whiskey is essential to a mint julep, it's not the spirit of choice for everyone. If brandy is more your style, break with Derby Day tradition and mix up a brandy smash.

    Very much like a julep, this recipe begins with a muddle of mint, sugar, and club soda. Add a shot of your favorite brandy, fill the glass with ice, and enjoy. If you prefer gin, pour that instead and enjoy a classic gin smash.

  • 04 of 10

    White Peach Julep

    White Peach Julep Cocktail Recipe
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    It's time to get peachy! The white peach julep recipe is a fun and simple twist on the original. Though white peaches are not always available, any peach will do for this drink.

    The bourbon of choice here is Maker's Mark, which has just enough sweetness to complement the muddled fruit and mint. Peach liqueur replaces the julep's sugar, and peach bitters add the perfect finishing touch. 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    The Ginger Julep ’68 Fastback

    Bulleit Bourbon's Ginger Julep '68 Fastback Recipe

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    Bulleit Bourbon is bold, and you never have to worry about it getting lost in any julep. The whiskey becomes even more daring when you add the snappy spice of fresh ginger. The infusion takes about a week, so you'll want to plan ahead.

    For the ginger julep '68 fastback recipe, mint is left out entirely. Instead, the muddle includes ginger, brown sugar, and a splash of soda. Top that off with the ginger whiskey, add more soda to taste, then enjoy the invigorating taste.

  • 06 of 10

    Tully 10 Cider

    Tully 10 Cider Cocktail with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

    Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

    The mint julep should not be reserved for that one Saturday in May because it's fantastic at any time of year. And yet, a recipe like the Tully 10 cider is a better fit for autumn.

    This fascinating cocktail retains the mint and syrup and opts for Irish whiskey. Apple cider—either hard or nonalcoholic—adds a seasonal touch and does surprisingly well against a couple of mint leaves. This one's definitely an adventure for the flavor curious.

  • 07 of 10

    Eye Candy

    Eye Candy Cocktail

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    Inspired by the gin smash, the eye candy will surely tantalize your taste buds. This modern creation is filled with fresh flavors and is perfect for the spring season. It's also a great companion for food.

    The recipe combines Bombay Sapphire Gin with elderflower liqueur and brings fresh ginger root into the minty muddle. The contrast in flavors is fascinating, so don't miss this opportunity to introduce your palate to something new.

  • 08 of 10

    Pot of Gold

    Pot of Gold Vodka and Elderflower Martini

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    There's also a muddled mint cocktail for vodka lovers. While the pot of gold is served martini-style, it can do just as well on the rocks.

    This recipe also pairs the floral taste of elderflower with fresh mint, but it adds fresh cucumber to the muddle. It's topped off with a splash of ginger beer, which gives a nice kick to the drink, leaving you with a memorable cocktail to enjoy.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Combier Royal Smash

    Royal Combier's Royal Smash Cocktail

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    The Combier royal smash is another non-whiskey alternative, and it's probably the easiest of the lot. It features the delightfully sweet flavor of Royal Combier, an orange liqueur that can quickly become a new staple in your bar.

    The lemon in this recipe makes it more like a whiskey smash. Yet, you will find that the citrus and mint are the perfect partners for the liqueur. It's bright, flavorful, and simply an enjoyable drink.

  • 10 of 10

    Peach Julep Ice Pop

    Peach Julep Popsicles with Bourbon Whiskey

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    A fun treat that every adult at your Derby party will enjoy, these peach julep ice pops are fun to make. The recipe combines fresh mint with peach juice and the bourbon of your choice. To give them an even mintier flavor, you can sprinkle fresh mint onto the boozy treats before they freeze.