Kentucky Mint Juleps: The Ultimate Recipe

Bourbon is the quintessential American whiskey and the drink of choice of many of the best pitmasters in the south. Made from at least 51% corn, and especially when made, filtered and aged in Kentucky, bourbon can rival the world's finest Cognacs in richness, depth, and complexity.

Mint, on the other hand, is a weed. Plant some now and you'll be engulfed by it in two years. There are many types, so go to the plant store and pinch a few leaves to see what you like best. The two main types, spearmint and peppermint, both work well in mint juleps. Pick the one you like the best. Or pick two.

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Course. Drink.

Cuisine. Southern. American.

Makes. 1 (12 ounce) cocktail

Takes. 10 minutes


10 mint leaves, stems removed

1 tablespoon sugar, more or less to taste

1 1/2 ounces clean fresh spring water or seltzer water to liven it up

3 ounces premium Bourbon

Crushed ice

1 sprig of mint for garnish


Rinse the mint leaves to make sure any dirt splashed on the underside of the leaves is gone. Don't dry them. The moisture from the rinse is helpful in making the drink. Put the leaves in a 12 ounce cocktail glass and pour the sugar on top. Muddle them together gently with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon. When the leaves and wet sugar begin to turn a little mushy, add the water and the bourbon, and stir with a fork until the sugar dissolves. Top with crushed ice, garnish with the sprig of mint, add a straw, and you're off!

Simple syrup is on every bar in the world. It is simply equal amounts water and sugar by volume. Below is a simple syrup infused with mint, perfect for juleps and mojitos. All the flavor, and no green stuff in your teeth! This makes a fairly sweet drink, as they like it in the South. You can cut back on the syrup and add a splash of sparkling water if you wish, and I often wish.

Makes. 14 ounces of mint syrup, enough for 8 (12 ounce) drinks

Preparation time. 15 minutes to make the mint syrup, 5 minutes to make the drink


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup of mint leaves, rinsed, de-stemmed, and chopped coarsely

1 (750 ml) bottle respectable Kentucky Bourbon

Crushed ice

About the Bourbon. Knob Creek is my favorite sippin' whiskey, but no way I'm mixing it with sugar and mint. Maker's Mark is a popular, less expensive choice. But for this recipe, the mint is the star, so I use an inexpensive bourbon like regular Jim Beam.

About the mint. Be sure to remove the stems and the large central vein which can be bitter. Leaves only, please.

Liven it up a bit. Before serving, dose it with a splash of club soda if you wish.


1) Put the mint, sugar, and water is a small saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Then turn it down to low for about 5 minutes to extract the mint flavor. Turn off the heat and let it cool at room temp.

2) Filter the syrup through a fine mesh strainer. You can then bottle it and keep it in the refrigerator for weeks.

3) Fill a 12 ounce cocktail glass half way with crushed ice. Pour in 3 ounces of bourbon, add 1 1/2 ounces of syrup, and stir or shake well because the syrup will sink to the bottom. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a straw, and get your bets down.

"If you'd asked me at 30 where I'd be during the Masters when I was 46, I'd have pictured myself on a boat fishing, smoking a cigar, drinking a mint julep and watching it on television."Jack Nicklaus

By the time the Kentucky Derby rolls around on the first weekend in May, mint is ready to pick, even in harsher climes, and it flourishes all summer long sporting lovely lavender flowers by midsummer.

The refreshing mint julep cocktail became the official drink of the Derby in 1938 and was served in water glasses. According to the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville, the glasses disappeared from the track dining room. So management started charging 25¢ per glass and the most popular race souvenir was born. They are collector's items and older glasses command hundreds of dollars on eBay. By 2010 the production run was up to 700,000 and they can be bought in stores. Sterling Silver Julep Cups were introduced in 1951 and they play an important role in Derby lore. Traditionally, the governor of Kentucky salutes the victorious Derby owner with a toast at the fashionable Winner's Party following the race. The official silver cups sell for $750 on their website. You can order unofficial Mint Julep CupsPlaceholder on Amazon for much less and read more about the drink in the book The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe NickelPlaceholder.

My wife and I always watch the Derby with a mint julep in hand. Tell us about your Derby traditions.

Meathead Goldwyn

Meathead is the founder and publisher of, and is also known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", a New York Times Best Seller and named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.




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