The Classic Mint Julep Cocktail

The mint julep is the next drink in our southern cocktail series! So far we have talked about the old fashioned cocktail and the Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka cocktail, but I’m certain that a beverage cannot get much more southern than the classic mint julep cocktail.

It is simple and summery and a little bit sweet…and delicious. Even for someone like me who doesn’t love whiskey!

Mint julep in a silver cup with beading. There is mint in the cup and some in the background. The cup is full of ice and is sitting on a white tray.

The Classic Mint Julep Cocktail

The History of the Mint Julep

When you think of the Kentucky Derby you immediately think of fast horses, big hats, seersucker suits, and of course, the mint julep.

While it might seem as if the mint julep is only associated with the Kentucky Derby its roots go back much farther than that! It was considered to be a medicinal drink as early as the late 1700’s. The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine. The mint mixed with alcohol were believed to settle the stomach and it was often consumed first thing in the morning!

The mint julep eventually blossomed in popularity among the elite class in the American south. Not only because the south is hot and mint is cooling, but also because serving a mint julep showed that you had enough money to access both ice and the famous silver or pewter mugs in which a mint julep is typically served.

The mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938 and since then Churchill Downs has served about 120,000 of these delicious concoctions every year over the two days of races.

Equipment Needed for Making a Mint Julep

  • The Classic Mint Julep Cup – The mint julep was traditionally served in a pewter or silver cup. You can also just use a look-a-like stainless steel mint julep cup or a traditional glass for drinks on the rocks.
  • A Muddler – A muddler is an essential piece of bar equipment that is used to smash or “muddle” your ingredients. In this case you are going to use it to smash the oils out of your mint.
  • Paper straws – There is a lot of ice in this drink so it is easier to drink with a straw. But it is best to use a paper straw that is either short or can be cut to length. The reason? The idea is to have your nose close to the mint garnish in your drink so that as you sip you can also smell the mint.
  • A shot glass with measurements on the side. This makes it easy to measure and mix your ingredients.
A white tray with several items on it. There is a bottle of bourbon whiskey, a mint julep cup, a muddler, some mint, some simple syrup, and a shot glass

Ingredients Needed

  • Bourbon Whiskey
  • Crushed Ice
  • Fresh mint
  • Simple syrup

Tips For Making, Serving, and Drinking an Amazing Mint Julep

  • Use a type of whiskey that you would want to sip by itself as the drink is “mostly” whiskey, but at the same time you don’t need to use anything too high end as there is a lot of melting ice in a mint julep. Try a good middle of the road drinking whiskey. A slightly higher-proof bourbon—something in the mid-80s or around 90—will keep the crushed ice from diluting the cocktail too quickly.
  • You are going to want a lot of ice. Crushed or shaved is preferred. The type of ice that is served in a drink from Sonic is perfect.
  • Spearmint is the traditional type of mint to be used in a mint julep, peppermint is a little too peppery/spicy for this drink. You will need enough mint to muddle into the cup with leftovers for garnish. The purpose of the garnish is so that you smell the mint as you drink your julep.
  • If you can boil water you can mix up your own simple syrup! Just heat 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar until the sugar is melted. Ta da! You have simple syrup which will keep well in your refrigerator.
  • One reason that a silver or pewter cup was used to make a mint julep was because of the ice that forms on the outside of the cup. It looks pretty and helps keeps the drink cold. These cups are often held right at the top by the rim or at the bottom by the stand so that your hands don’t warm the drink and melt the ice too quickly.

Recipe For the Perfect Mint Julep

  • Place about 6-8 mint leaves in the bottom of your mint julep cup
  • Add 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
  • Muddle the leaves. You don’t want to tear them to shreds, but you do want to release the oils.
  • Fill the cup about halfway with ice
  • Add the bourbon
  • Stir gently to incorporate the mint flavor into the bourbon
  • Add ice until the cup is full
  • Add mint garnish
  • Serve with a straw

Enjoy responsibly!

two silver mint juelp cups sitting on a piece of black marble. You see a muddler in the background and a black and white napkin.

Thanks for stopping by.