The Kentucky Derby wouldn’t be complete without three things; fast horses, fancy hats, and serious bourbon cocktails. The Mint Julep being the signature libation of the party. But, I wanted to take it a step further and turn this one-hit-wonder into a seasonal favorite.
Somewhere I became that friend when we go out to a bar. The one who knows a little too much – and although I am not above a $3 rail cocktail (and never will be) – I have been taking the time to learn about cocktails, from savory smoked classics – hello, Old Fashioned – to grilled twists, like this peach ginger drink (that would also be great in a julep cup). The more ‘craft’ things get in their name, the more I seem to want to break them down and simplify them. And the mint julep may be one of the most simple cocktails ever.
Let’s start with some background.
Why is the Mint Julep the Drink of the Kentucky Derby?
The Mint Julep has been a Kentucky favorite since long before Churchill Downs was founded in 1875. Henry Clay of Kentucky is purported to have brought the drink to Washington when he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1810. And in 1816, Kentucky county fairs gave out silver julep cups as prizes (I know, I used to polish them diligently when I worked in the jewelry industry). While likely served regularly during the preceding 63 years, Churchill Downs designated the Mint Julep the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938. And picturing a Kentucky Derby without a Julep in hand now seems near impossible.
How to Make a Mint Julep
A traditional Mint Julep is a fairly straightforward drink. Bourbon, Simple Syrup, Mint and crushed ice. Often the Mint is muddled first before the other ingredients are added. Some recipes call for powdered sugar and water instead of simple syrup, but the effect is quite similar. While Kentucky Bourbon is the ideal spirit for this drink, a Kentucky Whiskey can do as well (the difference is in the barrels), and for nearly 20 years the official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby featured Early Times Kentucky Whiskey.
How to make your own Simple Syrup
Need simple syrup? It’s all in the name. Mix equal parts sugar and hot water in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves, then allow to cool. As simple as it sounds. In this recipe I add the mint to the sugar water solution and allow it to steep for an hour. This brings out the mint flavor without having to muddle each serving when pouring for a crowd.
Looking for some other springtime cocktails to warm up with? Try these out, perfect for after dinner, or any time.
Frozen Strawberry Gin and Tonic
Muddle Mint and Cucumber Cooler
Spicy Sriracha Dirty Shirley
If you’ve tried my Lemon Mint Julep Cocktail recipe or any other recipe on passthesushi.com please don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know where you found it in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also follow along for more good eats and travel tips on Instagram @passthesushi & @girlcarnivore, Twitter & Facebook.
For the Mint Simple Syrup
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 5 sprigs Fresh Mint
For the Lemon Mint Julep
- Crushed Ice
- Mint Simple Syrup
- 32 oz Bourbon
- 48 oz Lemonade
- Fresh mint for garnish
Make the Mint Simple Syrup
- In a heavy bottom pot, add the sugar and water.
- Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring slowly, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Strain into a mason jar and add the mint. Cool.
- Once cool, about 1 hour, strain the mint and allow to sit, sealed until ready to use.
To Make a Single Lemon Mint Julep
- Add crushed ice to julep cups
- Pour in 1 teas mint simple syrup
- Top with 2 oz bourbon
- Add 3 oz Lemonade
- Top off with more crushed ice
- Garnish with fresh mint
To Make Lemon Mint Julep by the Pitcher
- Add 1/2 cup mint simple syrup to a pitcher.
- Stir in 4 cups bourbon to combine
- Top off with 6 cups lemonade
- Store until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, have cups near a bin of crushed ice with a scoop
- Scoop crushed ice into glasses and top with the pre-made mix.
- Garnish with mint and a fancy hat
Feeling bold, make this a bourbon Arnold Palmer Cocktail by adding some iced tea.
- Elegance 90476/6 Beaded Mint Julep Cup, Mini, Set of 6, Silver
- Marquis by Waterford 165118 Markham Double Old Fashioned Glasses, Set of 4
- Farielyn-X 160 Grids Mini Tiny Silicone Ice Cube Trays-Flexible Stackable Mini Cocktail Whiskey Ice Cube Mold Storage Containers for Kitchen Bar Party Drinks with Variety Colors (3 PCS)
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 253 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 7mg Carbohydrates: 32g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 31g Protein: 0g