How to Make a Mint Julep Fit for the Kentucky Derby

This bracingly cold bourbon drink is a sure sign of spring.

The Mint Julep has been around for over 200 years, making it nearly twice as old as the world’s second-best bourbon-infused treasure, Keith Richards. In The Essential Cocktail, Dale DeGroff says the bracingly cold Julep is “the first internationally known American cocktail.” But it wasn’t always the drink we know today.

When the Julep debuted in the late 18th century, the drink was made with peach brandy and Cognac (given that bourbon didn’t exist yet, this makes a certain amount of sense). It wasn’t until a century later that whiskey-based Juleps became all the rage, particularly in the American South.

The Mint Julep was named the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby in 1938, and it’s estimated that 125,000 are sold every year at Churchill Downs, contributing to Hunter S. Thompson’s famous assessment of the event as “decadent and depraved.”

Mint Julep




Step one

Muddle six mint leaves and syrup in chilled julep cup (or an Old-Fashioned glass if you don’t have it).

Step two

Pack glass with crushed ice. Pour bourbon over ice.

Step three

Stir briskly. Add more ice. Stir some more.

Step four

Garnish with mint leaves.

Contributed by Supercall

Mix It Up!

Muddle in some fresh peaches when they’re in season. Swap in maple syrup for simple. And for those who love the flavor but find the strength too much, you can shake a julep over ice, then serve it long with seltzer or iced tea over ice.