Mint Julep 101

Mint Julep 101

It’s Derby Week. The week where there’s still a chance that THIS is the year of the Triple Crown winner.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. When we lived in Fort Valley, we hosted a yearly Kentucky Derby party, complete with silver mint julep cups, red roses galore, hors d’oeuvres, amazing hats and gambling. Oh, and lots of Bourbon!

In honor of this week and to give y’all time to prepare for Saturday, I thought I’d share my two mint julep recipes with you. One is the traditional mint julep and another is a non-alcoholic version that can also be used as a lower sugar mint julep.

I discovered the non-alcoholic version one year when like 5 of my guests were pregnant (what a shame, at such a great drinking occasion). I found the recipe and they loved it!

Traditional Mint Julep

First, prepare the mint syrup

  • 1 ½ cups fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly, over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat. Cover and cool completely. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover and chill thoroughly.

This can be made a few days in advance.

Then, individually prepare the mint juleps for your guests or yourself.

  • 2 to 4 tablespoon Bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon Mint Syrup
  • fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
  • powdered sugar, for garnish

Combine Bourbon and Mint Syrup. Serve over crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and powdered sugar.

You can add simple syrup to cut the strength of the Bourbon if you wish.

To make a pitcher of Mint Juleps, put 1 cup of Mint Syrup for every 2 to 3 cups of Bourbon.

Non-Alcoholic or Lower Sugar Alcoholic Mint Julep

  • 2 cups fresh mint, chopped
  • 8 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Combine mint and apple juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and cool. Chill thoroughly.

Pour mint mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a 2 1/2 quart pitcher. Stir in lime juice.

Serve over crushed or shaved ice with 2-4 tablespoons of Bourbon if you wish. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Presentation is Everything

Use the best you have. Silver, crystal, good Bourbon. It’s only once a year. Live it up!

At post time, I expect you all to be raising your cups, frosted on the outside, minty on the inside, as the horses are loaded up and the famous words are spoken: Aaand they’re off!

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  1. We went to Kentucky for spring break this year. I loved Churchill downs. I even had a mint julep there. It was a bit strong for my liking but made all the horse info really fun.

    • One day I’ll be at the Derby. But I’m holding out for the REAL seats. I’m not going to be in the infield. That’s like the Panama City of the Derby world (aka trashy). If you make them, add extra mint syrup. That’ll cut the bourbon quickly. I tend to use half and half mint syrup and bourbon… and I’m a big bourbon fan. Enjoy!

  2. What hors d’oeuvres do you suggest serving? These are pretty sweet drinks, and I’m trying to to think of just one, simple thing that would be delicious to serve along with them next Saturday.

    • Ooh, great question!

      The favorite thing we always served were pork tenderloin sandwiches. We simply cooked (teriyaki marinated) tenderloins, sliced them about 1/2″ thick and served it on small rolls (like Parker House rolls) with a dollop of mustard.

      Cheese straws and mini-quiches are easy to purchase and throw on a plate and go well with the sweet drinks.

      Then, the go-to hors d’oeuvres like bourbon smokies or meatballs are always great. As are veggie/dip plates and cheese/cracker/dip plates.


  3. I thought you were suppose to rub the mint into the ice in a Mint Julep? Eff, what do I know…

    • Some recipes call for “muddling” the mint at the bottom of the cup, then adding the ice, bourbon and simple syrup. I find it’s better with the mint infused into the simple syrup. Or if you love mint, you could do both! Really, it’s about the bourbon, though 😉 And the silver cups.

  4. I’m looking to make a few pitchers in advance for an upcoming party. A few questions for you :-). How far in advance can you make up mint juleps (e.g., a few minutes, hours)? And how much mint syrup does the recipe you’ve listed above make? thanks!

    • It makes about 2.5-3 cups of the syrup, depending on how long you let it sit there and simmer. I usually let mine sit so long it ends up being about 3 cups. I also find that a lot of people like extra syrup to cut the bourbon taste. Make the syrup in advance (a few days is fine, just gets mintier over the days in the fridge). Then make the pitcher right before the party. OR make it drink by drink as people get them. I put out a little instruction card and they made their own one year. It was fun. :) ENJOY!


  1. […] now I must collapse until tomorrow when we will go to the museum with a friend, drink mint juleps all afternoon until the Kentucky Derby and then eat Mexican to celebrate Cinco de […]

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