Classic Mint Julep

Here’s how to make a mint julep! This ultra classic cocktail stars bourbon, ice, and lots of fresh mint: a refreshing way to sip on whiskey.

Mint julep

Here’s a cocktail that’s best known for the Kentucky Derby: but you can drink it any time of the year! Meet the Mint Julep. You don’t have to reserve it for special occasions: this bourbon cocktail is icy and refreshing, perfect for sipping anytime. While it sounds like this is a sweet drink, keep in mind: the Mint Julep is dry and bourbon-forward. If you’re not a big fan of whiskey, you’d be better off sipping a whiskey smash instead. But bourbon lovers: this is your drink!

What’s in a mint julep?

The mint julep is actually one of the oldest cocktails there is: it originated in the Southern US in the eighteenth century. The first mention of it was in 1784: and as a prescription from a doctor for a stomach ache! Yep, it was actually prescribed as medicine back in the day. It wasn’t until 1938 that the julep was promoted as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. But that time, it had solidified itself into cocktail tradition.

The mint julep is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition of it, which is:

There’s a bit of sugar to sweeten the drink, but the flavor of a julep mostly dry and very bourbon forward (though traditionally juleps were sweet drinks). It’s more like a very cold whiskey with a mint essence.

Mint julep

How to make a mint julep

There’s not a lot of technique involved in making a mint julep! There are two main steps: muddling the mint and then serving the drink. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Muddle the mint with the sugar and water. To muddle, gently mash the mint 2 to 3 times with a cocktail masher or wooden spoon. This releases the juices of the mint into the drink.
  • Add bourbon and ice. Add the bourbon and ice and stir. That’s all!

Want more drinks with mint? Try these Fresh Mint Cocktails.

The glassware to use

The traditional way to serve a mint julep is in a silver or pewter cup: then drinkers would hold the cup by the rim so that frost can form on the outside. But today, there are many different ways to serve it: most commonly in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass like you see here. Plus, most of us don’t have those traditional silver cups on hand…though you should absolutely use them if you do!

Bourbon

Cousin drink: the whiskey smash!

If you prefer a whiskey cocktail that’s more balanced and on the sweeter side, try the whiskey smash! The Whiskey Smash is like a citrus spin on the mint julep: it’s got lemon along with the fresh mint. It’s got the double the sweetness, so it’s a little easier to drink. You can also add a little soda water to lighten it up. In all honesty, I prefer it to the Mint Julep! Here’s how to make a whiskey smash.

More classic bourbon drinks

There are lots classic whiskey cocktails and bourbon cocktails to try! Alex and I prefer the sweet flavor of bourbon to rye whiskey, so we typically use it in these recipes:

Mint julep

When to serve a mint julep

The mint julep is classic and whiskey forward; it’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Summer drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Mint julep

Classic Mint Julep


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to make a mint julep! This ultra classic cocktail stars bourbon, ice, and lots of fresh mint: a refreshing way to sip on whiskey. 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 6 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) water
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) simple syrup
  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey
  • Crushed ice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Add the mint, water and simple syrup to the bottom of a glass and muddle (mash gently) several times with a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon.
  2. Fill the glass with crushed ice and pour the bourbon over the top. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with additional mint leaves.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Mint julep

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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