Perfect Mint Julep

I love this mint julep recipe! Made with bourbon, fresh mint, and lots of ice, it’s incredibly refreshing, especially on a warm day! The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1939, and I see why.

Classic Mint Julep Cocktail

This is one of our favorite mint julep recipes, it is icy, aromatic, and perfectly sweet. Nearly 120,000 mint juleps are served at The Kentucky Derby! The mint julep is a perfect warm weather cocktail!

For more bourbon cocktails, see our bourbon Manhattan and my favorite old-fashioned.

Mint Julep Cocktail with fresh mint, bourbon, and simple syrup

Key Ingredients

  • Kentucky bourbon: Mint juleps are all about showcasing your bourbon. Remember that we only add fresh mint and some simple syrup, so you will definitely taste the bourbon. Popular options include Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, and Maker’s Mark.
  • Mint: Use fresh! Most mint sold in grocery stores is spearmint, which works nicely here. Feel free to experiment with home-grown mint!
  • Simple syrup: Homemade simple syrup (1:1 sugar-to-water) is ideal for a classic mint julep. If you have a rich syrup (such as 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio), you will need less in your cocktail. And while they are not traditional, you can use pure maple syrup or agave nectar.
  • Crushed ice: This Southern cocktail needs plenty of crushed ice. It keeps the drink chilled and melts beautifully, softening the bourbon’s bite, which is perfect for a hot day. Use your ice maker’s crushed setting or crush ice cubes in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin.

How to Make a Mint Julep

For mint juleps, use a sterling silver or copper julep cup, a rocks glass, or an old-fashioned glass. You’ll make your julep right in the glass. Start by gently muddling fresh mint leaves with simple syrup. Use a wooden cocktail muddler or the end of a wooden spoon. Push some of the muddled mint up the sides of your glass, and then fill to the top with crushed ice.

How to Make a Mint Julep - Muddling fresh mint with simple syrup

Pour over your bourbon, then swirl the cocktail with a long spoon a few times to mix. At this point, I like to taste and then adjust with more simple syrup if the cocktail needs it (I like my mint julep on the sweeter side).

Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, and then enjoy! When you sip your mint julep, do it close to the mint to get the full minty aroma. Or, if you are adding a straw, place it close to the mint.

Classic Mint Julep Cocktail

Making Mint Juleps for a Crowd

If you’re having a Derby party or plan to serve mint juleps to a group of people, I have a trick for you. Instead of muddling mint for every cocktail, you can premake a mint simple syrup and refrigerate for up to a week in advance.

To do it, follow my method for basic simple syrup, and then, as the syrup is cooling down, add a generous handful of fresh mint. The mint will steep in the syrup. When it’s completely cooled to room temperature, strain it and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to make your mint juleps.

To make them, fill your glasses with crushed ice and pour over the bourbon and mint syrup. Stir, adjust with more syrup, and garnish with fresh mint. Then, serve your mint juleps alongside other Kentucky Derby party food like deviled eggs, hot crab dip, homemade biscuits, and banana cream pie.

Perfect Mint Julep

  • PREP

A mint julep cocktail is refreshing and strong. It is traditionally made with fresh mint, bourbon, and simple syrup. I use this recipe for homemade simple syrup. It’s easy, I promise!

Makes 1 cocktail

You Will Need

10 mint leaves, plus one sprig for garnish

1 ounce simple syrup, or more to taste (2 tablespoons)

2 ounces Kentucky bourbon whisky (1/4 cup)

Crushed ice

Sugar, for garnish, optional


    1Place mint and 3/4 ounce of simple syrup in a julep cup or rocks glass (at least 8 ounces). You’ll add the remaining simple syrup to taste in a moment.

    2Gently crush the mint leaves using a wooden muddler or the end of a wooden spoon. Then, push some of the mint pieces up the sides of the glass.

    3Add crushed ice to the glass, loosely filling it close to the top.

    4Pour the bourbon over the ice and lightly stir with a long spoon to mix. Taste, and then drizzle over the remaining simple syrup, if needed. (I like my cocktail on the sweeter side, so I use the full 1 ounce, sometimes more.)

    5Garnish with a mint sprig. Sip your julep close to where the mint garnish sits to get the minty aroma.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Optional garnish: Some mint julep recipes lightly sprinkle the mint sprig with sugar before adding it to the glass, adding a lovely sparkle.
  • Simple syrup: 1:1 sugar-to-water is ideal for a classic mint julep, like this recipe. If you have a rich syrup (such as 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio), you will need less in your cocktail. And while they are not traditional, you can use pure maple syrup or agave nectar.
  • Non-alcoholic mint julep: Use 2 ounces of non-alcoholic bourbon OR a good-quality ginger ale. If you use ginger ale, you will need a bit less simple syrup. Also, consider a fresh slice of lemon.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1 cocktail / Calories 193 / Total Fat 0g / Saturated Fat 0g / Cholesterol 0mg / Sodium 0.5mg / Carbohydrate 14.2g / Dietary Fiber 0.1g / Total Sugars 14.1g / Protein 0g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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