Mint Julep Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 30 min. + chilling
Our recipe for mint julep features a from-scratch mint syrup and and expert tips for the perfect warm-weather cocktail.

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024

Bourbon, sugar and fresh mint come together over a towering pile of crushed ice to create the unbeatably refreshing mint julep. It’s a perfect porch sipper on a hot summer day, and it also happens to be the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. Mint juleps are over 200 years old, but Churchill Downs started selling them in souvenir julep cups in the 1930s. Today, it’s estimated they sell over 120,000 during the big race weekend!

Any Derby Day spread wouldn’t be complete without mint juleps. But that doesn’t mean you have to reserve them for the first Saturday in May. This minty cocktail is the backbone of southern warm-weather entertaining!

“When I think of a mint julep, I think of the Derby, but also a day on the porch with company,” says Lynn Maggio, Mrs. Alabama America 2012. “I’d say a mint julep is a refreshing, social comfort and the very scent of spring and summer in the South.”

Thanks to their utter deliciousness, mint juleps are now being sipped across the United States.

And they’re off!

Mint Julep Ingredients

  • Bourbon: You want bourbon, not regular whiskey, for this cocktail (read up on bourbon vs. whiskey here). Look for a bourbon that’s around 90 proof so it can stand up to the crushed ice on a hot day.
  • Mint: This cocktail is a delightful ode to mint! The simple syrup is infused with fresh mint, and the finished drinks are garnished with additional sprigs.
  • Simple syrup: A simple syrup is a sweet concoction made with equal parts sugar and water. We recommend using granulated white sugar, which will allow the flavor of the mint to shine through.
  • Crushed ice: Juleps are designed to be served with crushed ice—never cubed. Our experts unanimously agree! “Otherwise, it’s just whiskey and mint in a glass,” says Maurizio Chiovaro, a hospitality pro in New York.

Directions

Step 1: Make the simple syrup

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Combine the sugar, water and chopped mint in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Step 2: Strain the syrup

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Line a mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Strain the mint syrup, and discard the mint. Cover and refrigerate the syrup for at least two hours or until chilled.

Step 3: Mix the mint juleps

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For each serving, place crushed ice in a metal julep cup or rocks glass. Pour 2 to 4 tablespoons mint syrup into the glass (depending on your desired level of sweetness). Add the bourbon, and stir until the mixture is well chilled. Garnish with a mint sprig.

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Editor’s Tip: Metal julep cups look gorgeous, and they have the added bonus of frosting when chilled. You’ll know to finish stirring the cocktail when frost forms on the outside of the cup!

Mint Julep Variations

  • Muddle the mint: It’s easy to whip up one cocktail at a time by muddling the mint directly inside in each cup (lightly crushing the mint releases flavorful oils into the drink). To make a muddled mint julep, place the sugar, mint leaves and a splash of water in the bottom of a cup. Use a muddler or a wooden spoon to lightly smash the ingredients until the mint is crushed and the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the bourbon and ice, and stir until chilled.
  • Adjust the sweetness: If the flavor of the base recipe is too sweet, reduce the mint syrup to 1/2 or 1/4 ounce.
  • Make it boozier: Looking for a more spirit-forward cocktail? Increase the bourbon to 2 ounces.

Can you make this mint julep recipe ahead of time?

It’s easy to make the mint-infused simple syrup ahead of time. After straining out the mint leaves, pour the infused syrup into a lidded glass container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you’re ready to serve, mix the cocktail as directed.

Mint Julep Tips

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What kind of bourbon should you use in mint juleps?

You’ll want to pick up bourbon whiskey, the American-pedigreed whiskey whose name evokes both Bourbon Street and Kentucky’s Bourbon County. Some of our go-to bourbons are Woodford Reserve, a presenting partner of the Kentucky Derby, and Maker’s Mark, with its iconic red-wax seal.

How do you make crushed ice for mint juleps?

Crushed ice is ideal for mint juleps, but you don’t need an ice maker to get it. The easiest way to crush ice is in a blender. If you prefer to crush it by hand, place the ice in a tea towel or plastic bag. Strike the ice firmly with a rolling pin. Move the towel or bag around so the contents become evenly crushed. For small amounts of crushed ice, try putting it in a cocktail shaker. Press down firmly with a muddler, shaking the shaker and pressing down until all the ice is crushed.

Why do people slap mint leaves before garnishing a mint julep?

We have it on good authority that a gentle smack warms up the mint to bring out essential oils and promote minty aromatics with every sip—or so says Dustin Haarstad, the owner of Black Cat, a popular whiskey bar in Seattle. It might sound strange, but Dustin says to “give the sprig a good slap” when you garnish the drink with fresh mint. “It’s not just about the drink,” adds Maggio of Mrs. Alabama fame. “The presentation is important in the South as well.”

How can you make a mock mint julep?

It’s easy to make a bourbon-free mint julep for those who prefer mocktail recipes. Replace the bourbon with unsweetened iced tea, or make our mock mint julep recipe with ginger ale.

Where can you buy julep cups?

Look for mint julep cups anywhere bar gear and cocktail glasses are sold. Traditional cups used pewter to keep the cocktail icy cold, but today’s cups are generally made with stainless steel. If you don’t have a julep cup, a rocks glass or highball glass is a safe alternative.

Watch how to Make Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Prep Time 30 min
Yield 10 servings (2-1/2 cups syrup).

Ingredients

  • MINT SYRUP:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups loosely packed chopped fresh mint
  • EACH SERVING:
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce bourbon
  • Mint sprig

Directions

  1. For syrup, combine sugar, water and chopped mint in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; cool to room temperature.
  2. Line a mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Strain syrup; discard mint. Cover and refrigerate syrup for at least 2 hours or until chilled.
  3. For each serving, place ice in a metal julep cup or rocks glass. Pour 2-4 tablespoons mint syrup and bourbon into the glass; stir until mixture is well chilled. Garnish with mint sprig.

Nutrition Facts

1/3 cup: 197 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 6mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate (39g sugars, 1g fiber), 1g protein.

It wouldn't be Kentucky Derby Day without this mint julep recipe! But, really, this Kentucky Derby mint julep recipe is good anytime. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen