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And they’re off….to drink Mint Juleps! One day a year, all eyes are on Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and everyone watching has a Mint Julep in their hand. It’s that classic cocktail of bourbon whiskey, fresh mint leaves, and sugar and, just as much of a winner, as the filly who gallops over that finish line at Churchill Downs.
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If you want to learn all about how the Mint Julep came to be the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, then check out the Lush Life episode: How to Drink the Mint Julep with Stacey Yates, Kentucky Tourism!
What is a Julep
The actual word Julep can be traced, they think, to julepe, which is of Spanish, Arabic, or Persian descent. Julepe meant rosewater and they think it was just medicinal. In the olden days, you mixed spirits with something herbal and that was called a julepe. In America, early cocktails were made by mixing herbs and sugar with some of these spirits.
Where the Mint Julep was born
The story goes that in the South, especially Kentucky, there were a lot of horse trainers. They would get up very early to train their horses and they wanted a refreshing morning drink. They would add the sugar and then sprigs of fresh mint, since mint was a native plant here and it grows everywhere. They would infuse the mint and the sugar into their whiskey. And this became the traditional Mint Julep.
Why the tie with the Kentucky Derby
In 1903, a gentleman by the name of Colonel Matt Winn would become involved with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. He was the PT Barnum of his day and a great marketer. During this time, the Kentucky Derby would grow to a hugely popular sporting event in the United States. By the 1930’s, it got international prominence, but it wouldn’t be until 1938 that Churchill would actually name it the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
How many Mint Juleps are drunk a year!
On Derby Day, they make 120,000 Mint Juleps!
What tools you need to make the Mint Julep
You won’t be needing a cocktail shaker for this one! Grab a jigger, a barspoon or more traditionally, the handle of a wooden spoon, and chilled Mint Julep cups (silver cups or pewter cups) for every Mint Julep you make! It’s one of the easy recipes of the classic cocktails.
Loads of fresh mint is essential as well, providing that unique flavor profile.
For this classic Mint Julep recipe, as it’s a bourbon cocktail, you’ll need bourbon, fresh mint, simple syrup (sugar syrup), powdered sugar, a mint sprig, and lots and lots of crushed ice or shaved ice. I am not a huge fan of rye whiskey, but feel free to try, if you prefer your Mint Julep with a bite! It can be a sweet drink if you add a lot of sugar syrup and powdered sugar.
- Top Tip(ple)🍸:
- Don’t forget to slap the mint a few times to release the essential oils
- Making the crushed ice can we super easy with a lewis bag and mallet!
- Derby weekend is the first weekend in May – every year! Put that first Saturday in May in your diary!
- By infusing the mint with the sugar, you can use this syrup mixture in other cocktails
- Make it in a Mint Julep Cup, it just doesn’t cut it being in a highball glass or collins glass.
- Fun fact: John Burnside, owner of Houmas House plantation where I stayed on my fabulous trip to New Orleans, loved his Mint Juleps made with rum instead of Bourbon.
What Bourbon should you use
It was the Early Times Bourbon that they first used as the official bourbon of the Mint Julep. Now it’s the classic Kentucky bourbon, Woodford Reserve, but you can use your favorite bourbon!
Where to find more Mint Julep and mint recipes
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Woodford Reserve Julep
- The Old Forester Julep
- Oaks Lily – the other Kentucky Derby cocktail
- Grasshopper Cocktail
- Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint Spritz
- Cointreau Fizz Strawberry and Mint
- Coole Swan 1923
Where to find the best Mint Julep in the world
It has to be the Kentucky Derby!
Where to find ingredients for the Mint Julep
You can find all the best bourbon for one of the oldest cocktails at Spirits Kiosk (10% off the entire site by quoting this code: ALushLife10SK.) in the UK; or Drizly (Get $5 Off Your Order of $20+ using code ALUSHLIFE5) in the USA!
Here is the recipe:
This Mint Julep recipe comes to you directly from Kentucky. Serve it in a silver cup and don your hat - it's Kentucky Derby time!
- 2 cups sugar (256g)
- 2 cups water (270ml)
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Silver Julep Cups
- Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes.
- Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight if you have time.
- Make one Julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice.
- Add one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Kentucky Bourbon.
- Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup.
- Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
PIN THS RECIPE FOR LATER