Relish the taste of Southern tradition with a refreshing Mint Julep. ?? A beautiful harmony of bourbon, mint, and sugar, this cocktail is a time-honored classic that never goes out of style.

In this article:

This Mint Julep is a ​classic cocktail recipe best known as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby! Bourbon, lemonade, and fresh mint leaves perfectly sweetened with homemade mint simple syrup. 

Whether it’s derby day or a random warm day, there’s nothing like sipping on a smooth bourbon cocktail! From this Peach Bourbon Cocktail to a Smoked Old Fashioned, we know how to craft signature cocktails that will cool you down. Take this Mint Julep, for instance.

A julep is a classic Southern cocktail known for its popularity at the Kentucky Derby. It’s a fairly straightforward drink made with bourbon, simple syrup, a sprig of mint, and crushed ice. But in this one, we’re adding some refreshing lemonade to jazz things up!

Backlight crystal highball glasses filled with ice and this cocktail.

What is a Mint Julep?

The Mint Julep has been the official drink of the derby since long before the Churchill Downs racetrack 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. While likely served regularly during the preceding 63 years, Churchill Downs designated the Mint Julep the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938. And picturing a Kentucky Derby without a Julep in hand now seems near impossible.

Close up of the cocktail with ice bubbling over the top of a highball glass.

What You Need to Make This Classic Mint Julep Recipe

We did swap the traditional silver Julep cup for a crystal highball glass. This cocktail works in a Collins glass too. Use whichever you prefer.

  • Mint Simple Syrup – we’re making homemade simple syrup with sugar, water, and fresh mint sprigs.
  • Ice - make a classic mint julep and serve it over crushed ice!
  • Bourbon – Use your favorite bourbon.
  • Lemonade – Use any kind of lemonade you prefer. 
  • Fresh Mint – for garnish.
Ingredients for this cocktail recipe.

How to Make This Bourbon Cocktail

This cocktail is light and easy to make. The homemade simply syrup is infused with mink that adds just the right herbal flavor.

Make the Mint Simple Syrup

The simple syrup couldn’t be easier! Simply mix together equal parts sugar and hot water in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.

For mint simple syrup, 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! 

Craft Your Cocktail

To put together your bourbon lemon cocktail, add crushed ice to julep cups or a regular rocks glass, then pour in a teaspoon of the prepared mint simple syrup.

Garnish and Serve

Top with 2 ounces of bourbon, 3 ounces of lemonade, and more crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh mint sprig and enjoy!

Backlight mint julep cocktails with crushed ice and mint.

What to Serve With a Lemon Mint Julep

This refreshing cocktail makes the perfect companion for appetizers like deviled eggs, a cheese plate, or Pimento Cheese Sirloin Sliders. To continue the Southern theme, enjoy some buttermilk fried chicken alongside your juleps! And for dessert, serve up some Brownie Walnut Pie!

Expert Tips

  • Muddle mint in the bottom of the glass for extra minty flavor! 
  • Use lemon juice instead of lemonade to reduce the sugar content.
  • Pour into a silver cup for that authentic derby feel.
Mint julep in foreground with books and an additional cocktail behind.

Recipe FAQs

What’s the difference between a mojito and a mint julep?

Both a mojito and a mint julep are made with mint and sweetened with simple syrup, but a mojito also includes citrus juice and is made with rum. A julep doesn’t traditionally contain any citrus and is made using bourbon.

However, we’re shaking things up a bit and adding citrus to this recipe. It’s still a julep, though!

Can I make a large batch of this refreshing cocktail for a crowd?

​Totally! If you’re serving a crowd, it’s super easy to whip up a large batch of this bourbon lemon cocktail for easy pouring. Simply combine ½ cup of mint simple syrup, 4 cups of bourbon, and 6 cups of lemonade in a large pitcher. 

Store in the fridge, then pour over crushed ice when you’re ready to serve!

What kind of bourbon should I use for this recipe?

Any quality bourbon will do! Some great options are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark! 

Can I use a different type of whiskey instead of bourbon?

While Kentucky bourbon is the traditional choice for a Mint Julep, you can experiment with other types of whiskey, like rye whiskey, for a different flavor profile.

Can I make a non-alcoholic version of a Mint Julep?

Yes! You can make a non-alcoholic Mint Julep by substituting the bourbon with a non-alcoholic alternative like ginger ale or sparkling water. The rest of the recipe remains the same.

Close up of a mint julep and Makers Mark bottle.

More Cocktail Recipes to Try

Whether you’re sipping this concoction at the Kentucky Derby, throwing your own derby party, or simply lounging on your porch on a hot day, this Mint Julep will be your faithful companion. It’s a drink that screams tradition, and for good reason – it’s a classic cocktail that’s stood the test of time. If you try this recipe, please rate the recipe card and leave a comment below to help out the next reader!

📖 Recipe

Easy lemon mint julep with homemade mint simple syrup

Lemon Mint Julep Cocktail

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.
4.89 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate Share by Text
American
Author: Kita Roberts
3 minutes
Serves: 16 cocktails

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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 ½ 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

Video

Notes

Feeling bold, make this a bourbon Arnold Palmer Cocktail by adding some iced tea.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Sodium: 7mg | Sugar: 31g

Nutritional informations provided as a courtesy and is only an approximatation. Values will changes based on ingredients used.

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