This mint julep recipe is simple, totally refreshing, and delicious! The signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby is perfect for cooling off all summer. It's ready in just 5 minutes!
If you like refreshing cocktails, you'll also enjoy my grapefruit Irish Mule recipe.
What is a mint julep?
It's a classic cocktail with bourbon that's slightly sweet and served over ice with fresh mint. It originated in the southern states sometime during the 1700s, and it's been associated with Kentucky Derby in particular since the 1930s! They serve thousands of them each year at Churchill Downs.
When it's Derby Day, you're going to want to have one of these iconic and bright cocktails in your hand! Traditionally they'd be served in pewter cups, but these days you'll likely find them in something similar to an old fashioned glass. However you drink it, you'll enjoy sipping one of these ice cold drinks on a hot day.
Ingredients you'll need
- Mint leaves - get the freshest mint you can find since it's a key flavor
- Simple syrup - it's a mixture that's found in many cocktails that has white sugar and water. It's best to make it ahead of time for this recipe.
- Bourbon - you can choose your favorite brand of Kentucky bourbon, but I'm a big fan of Bulleit bourbon. At the Derby they use Woodford Reserve.
- Club soda - for topping it up. I love the fizzy bubbles!
- Ice - crushed ice is usually used, but shaved works
How to make simple syrup
- Add equal parts sugar and water to a small pan. Use a mix of 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water to make plenty of syrup. Boil until the sugar has dissolved.
- Let it cool, and transfer to a covered container like a mason jar. Store in the fridge for up to about a month!
How to make a mint julep
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Prepare the simple syrup. Place the fresh mint leaves into your glass. Pour in the sugar syrup, and gently muddle to release the aroma from the mint.
- Add crushed ice to the glass nearly up to the rim, and then pour in the bourbon. Top up with club soda, stir, and garnish with a generous sprig of mint. Enjoy immediately!
Is it strong?
- Here we're using using 2 oz of bourbon, but it's also tempered by the ice and club soda. It's a great cocktail for sipping.
- It probably goes without saying, but if you're not a fan of bourbon, you may not enjoy this drink.
- Want it to be a little less alcoholic? Use 1 oz of bourbon, halve the syrup, and top it up with more club soda.
- Muddling is cocktail-speak for mashing the mint a little bit to extract the aroma and flavor. Use a cocktail muddler or a pestle or basically any flat implement to crush it a little. The key is to be gentle and not overdo it!
- Crushed ice is best for getting that chilled effect throughout the drink, but you can use regular ice cubes in a pinch.
- In this version there's a fair amount of simple syrup. If you do want it less sweet, just play with the proportions of bourbon and syrup to your tastes!
- Want to brighten it up even more? Add in a squeeze of lemon juice (unless you're a julep purist)
Let me know in the comments below if you've made this easy mint julep recipe! Questions? Feel free to ask.
Classic Mint Julep Recipe
- 10 mint leaves
- 1 ounce simple syrup (see note on how to make it)
- 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
- Club soda for topping up
- Crushed or shaved ice
- Prepare the simple syrup ahead of time. In a glass, add the mint leaves. Tear any large leaves in half.
- Pour in your simple syrup.
- Muddle the leaves in the glass to release the mint flavor. The muddling takes a good 2-3 minutes.
- Fill the glass with the crushed ice almost to the top.
- Add in your favorite Kentucky bourbon.
- Top up with club soda; stir to mix everything together. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!
- This recipe works best for a 6 ounce glass.
- How to make simple syrup: Add equal parts sugar and water to a small pan (I did 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water - it makes plenty of syrup). Boil until dissolved; let it cool and transfer to a sealed container (e.g. mason jar) and store in the fridge for up to about a month.