Mint Julep


The first weekend of May, Scott and I decided to try out the Mint Julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, in honor of said Derby. But things have been busy in Nashville, what with all the flooding, so we’re only posting this now.

Mint juleps are tricky: too sweet and they are unbearable, too much mint and they taste medicinal, not the right bourbon and they are too harsh. But if you strike just the right mix, it’s delightful: cool and particularly refreshing on a muggy Spring or Summer night.

There are a few ways to make a mint julep as neither Scott nor I have a favorite method, we’re going to list out the two most common ways mint juleps are made, as well as the hybrid method we used.

The Bar Sugar Method
8-10 mint leaves
1 rounded teaspoon of bar sugar*
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

Combine finely granulated bar sugar and fresh mint leaves in the bottom of the serving glass.  Crush with a muddler for about a minute. Add enough crushed ice to almost fill your glass. Add bourbon, stir and serve. Garnish with a mint leaf or two for the full aromatic effect.

Using this method, the sugar acts as an abrasive to help release the mint oils from the leaves. Some people prefer this method because it requires the least preparation, but muddling the mint can be somewhat laborious.

*Bar sugar is finely granulated sugar. You can make bar sugar by running regular granulated sugar through the blender or a clean hand-held coffee grinder for about 30 seconds. Do not use confectioners sugar, as it contains cornstarch.

The Mint Simple Syrup Method
2-4 mint leaves
1 oz. mint simple syrup*
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

Combine mint simple syrup and mint leaves in bottom of serving glass, muddle briefly. Add crushed ice and bourbon, stir and serve. Garnish with a mint leaf or two, if desired.

*To make the mint simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan. Add 10-12 fresh mint leaves. Heat on medium until sugar dissolves. Be careful not to let the mixture get too hot so you don’t actually cook the mint leaves, as they will lose some of the fresh flavor and get mushy. Let the mixture cool, strain and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, you can pour the cooled syrup into ice cube trays and simply melt when you need it. (If you’re very crafty, you can pour it into the tray in 1/2 oz. measurements so that you don’t have to measure it each time.)

You can use this mint infused syrup instead of muddling the fresh mint to save time and effort. (The mint syrup is also good to have around for mojitos).  Though a few fresh mint leaves should always be included in a proper Mint Julep no matter what.

The Hybrid Method
8-10 mint leaves
1 oz. simple syrup
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

In shaker, muddle mint leaves in simple syrup for one minute, transfer to serving glass. Add crushed ice, add bourbon. Serve. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Scott and I used this method because it is simple and we had simple syrup on hand already. Any of these methods will produce a mint julep you will enjoy.

A word on mint juleps’ ties to the Kentucky Derby. Mint juleps have several storied serving glasses. The most well-known is probably the sterling silver julep cup, but there are also collectible mint julep glasses issued for the Kentucky Derby each year. Click here to read more about that. One of the official bourbons used by the Derby is Early Times, which was still legal during prohibition as it was considered a “medicinal whiskey.” Woodford Reserve is the other official Derby bourbon. The Kentucky Derby also has an official mint: Kentucky Colonel, which is a spearmint. One of the gentlemen at our local liquor store informed me that it is really the best mint for mint juleps. He’s married to a chef, and they grow a dozen varieties of mint so I guess he would know, but I can’t verify this assertion.

We hope you enjoy the mint julep. Let us know what you think in the comments! (Proper non-cell phone photography will return in our next post. Sorry about that!)


3 Responses to “Mint Julep”

  1. 1 Jen Clapp

    Nice post (yet I still remain firmly in the “Mint Julep; gross” pool)! Yea for the Derby!

  2. I agree with Jen on this one…though to be fair the only mint julep I’ve ever had was at Pat O’Brian’s in NOLA, so maybe after my body is not a home for 2, I’ll give your version a whirl.

  3. If only I had a penny for every time I came to! Incredible article!

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