Mint Julep

Many people think of the mint julep as a spring or summer drink, associated in particular with the Kentucky Derby. But the brightness of the mint with the warmth of the bourbon is just as appropriate in the fall and winter. The preferred serving vessel is the traditional pewter or silver mint julep cup, but a double old-fashioned glass is a good substitute.

We grow julep mint, a variety developed just for this iconic Southern cocktail, in the herb garden; it’s fragrant, delicious, easy to grow, and thrives in the Georgia climate. You can certainly use fresh mint from the farmers’ market, but mint is a great plant to grow at home, even for the beginning gardener. It’s almost impossible to kill!–Anne Stiles Quatrano

LC Julep Us! Note

We’re thinking about petitioning for the word “julep” to officially function as a verb as well as a noun. Allow us demonstrate what we’re thinking: Julep us! (What do you think?!)

Special Equipment: Muddler; julep cup (optional); silver julep spoon or a plain old straw

Mint Julep Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon granulated, superfine, or turbinado sugar
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cold water
  • Ice, preferably crushed
  • 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) bourbon

Directions

  • 1. Use a muddler to crush the mint leaves and sugar together in the bottom of a silver julep cup or tall glass. (You want to gently press and turn the mint to release the leaves’ essential oils and accompanying taste and aroma. The objective is not to pound the mint into oblivion.) Add the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. (Superfine sugar will dissolve the quickest, granulated sugar may take a little extra stirring and patience, and turbinado sugar may result in a lovely caramel flavor but with a few undissolved crystals.)
  • 2. Mound the cup or glass with ice. Pour the bourbon over the ice, but do not stir. Serve with a silver julep spoon if you want to be all fancy. If you’re not so into appearances, a straw will do the trick just fine.
Thirsty for more? Sip on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Pat Francis

May 01, 2014

On the coldest day of the year--the coldest day of many years--I made a mint julep for the first time. My reckoning was that the bourbon, even over ice, would be a warming addition to the evening. (It was.) I pulled out the cocktail muddler I inherited from my father, which rarely gets used, and I muddled the mint leaves and sugar. I used turbinado sugar instead of plain granulated. The recipe said that I could and I hardly ever find a reason to use my stash of the stuff, so I did. I think I did a fine job on the mint part, as I could smell the aroma of mint in my kitchen even while the leaves remained intact. I don’t think I did as good a job with the sugar, as crunchy sugar crystals made their way up through the straw as the drink was consumed. The straw was a beautiful bent glass one that I inherited from who-knows-where and which I've never had an opportunity to use—at least not one that seemed worth dirtying it. This was an appropriate opportunity. Apart from some crunchy sugar (granulated would surely dissolve more effectively, and superfine would be even better), this was a fine and satisfying drink, even on a single-digit day. My bottle of single-barrel Kentucky bourbon, which is rarely touched, is now down by 2 1/2 ounces. Although I might wait until Derby Weekend to make another mint julep, I will surely be using it for this purpose again.

Testers Choice
Robert McCune

May 01, 2014

For some reason, bourbon has been my drink of choice this winter. I've been trying various cocktails and finally decided that I needed to add the mint julep recipe to my long list of drinks. I always associate it with the derby and springtime, but to me, bourbon is somewhat warming and seems appropriate for winter. I've tasted a mint julep a couple of times before, and had neutral feelings about it. The tastes that I have had were always a variation that someone thought was an "improvement" on the original. They weren't bad but didn't leave me wanting more. They usually involved cutting back on the sugar, adding too much sugar, or adding too much bourbon in relation to the other ingredients. After making this and enjoying every last drop, I now know what people have been raving about! I recently read that even good "sipping" whiskey needs a little water or ice to bring out the best in it. I think this drink does that very well. The flavor of the good bourbon that I used still shines through, but is nicely enhanced by the mint, sugar, water, and ice. This will be on the Derby Day party menu this year.

Testers Choice
Kristel Poole

May 01, 2014

You really can't go wrong with a classic mint julep recipe. This was cool, refreshing, and perfect for a summer garden party or after-work sipper. It reminded me of the horse races in Virginia, where this bourbon and mint cocktail is found in the hands of every hat-wearing lady and bow-tied gentleman.

Testers Choice
Larry Noak

May 01, 2014

This is a classic mint julep recipe. I really liked the use of turbinado sugar. Two simple tips, which will make this as good as possible: When muddling the mint leaves, twist and press gently. You don't want to pulverize the mint, you just want to release some of the oils from the mint. Next, please, at the very least, use a straw to sip; this way, you'll be drawing your favorite bourbon through the crushed ice, mint, and sugar, giving you a DELIGHTFUL experience.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

May 01, 2014

In the south, the mint julep is perhaps considered a spring and summer drink, but for us Canadians, it's the best cure for the many polar vortexes that we face. It was only Tuesday and with the mercury dipping below 30°C, I thought it fit to make myself a stiff one after I shivered and shook myself home from work. I must say, this drink did warm me up and I quite enjoyed the fresh mint flavor. I'm not a bourbon drinker, but tonight I enjoyed that glass in front of the fire. The crushed ice sort of slowly melted into the bourbon and the flavors of the mint came through with every sip. Will definitely offer this drink to my guests. I used regular store-bought mint and crystal scotch glasses. I had no silver mint julep spoon with me, so I used an old-fashioned bright blue plastic straw. Seemed just fine. (But I still love my prosecco.)

Testers Choice
Mackenzie Campbell

May 01, 2014

I just had to test this mint julep recipe. It brought me right back to living in the South, sitting on a porch on a hot summer evening. The proportions of this cocktail were good for me, but some people might like it a little sweeter. I might use simple syrup in the future just for ease of construction, and the granulated sugar didn't immediately mix into the drink as it should. This is supposed to be a STRONG drink, so although 2 1/2 ounces whiskey may seem like a lot, once it's mixed with the crushed ice (I don't care how you do it, but it NEEDS to be crushed) the alcohol cools and mellows and mingles with the mint just wonderfully.

Testers Choice
Mike S.

May 01, 2014

First off, I'd like to say that I licked my muddler clean. Mint sugar equals yummy. As much as I like turbinado sugar, though, I would not recommend it in this mint julep recipe. The grains just didn't want to dissolve, so the drink ended up tasting like straight bourbon. For my second attempt, I used ultra-fine granulated sugar, and this worked perfectly. Regular granulated sugar works as well, it just takes a little more stirring time. My first sip was on the strong side, but as long as you resist the urge to slam the drink (always my first impulse), the ice will start to melt and mellow and meld the drink into something wonderful.

Testers Choice
Julie Fortier

May 01, 2014

This is a recipe near and dear to my heart as my family has a tradition of an annual Derby party. To that end, my mother collected sterling mint julep cups of which I now own 6 dozen, and I continue the tradition since she's gone. There's nothing more beautiful than to see these beauties shiny on a silver tray with an outer layer of icy frost. This is the first recipe I've ever seen that makes them individually as we have always done WITHOUT sugar syrup. I always have a few friends come early to the party and start the muddle production while I follow behind with crushed ice and Maker's Mark. It's always got to be Maker's Mark in my tiny world. So this recipe didn't disappoint. It's perfect and delicious. The only change I would make to this one as written is to use powdered sugar which melts into the liquor and doesn't leave any grainy, sugar feel in the mouth. And I invite any testers who are near Virginia Beach this year come May 3 to stop by, have a ham biscuit, some crab pie, and that good old fashioned pimento cheese with a mint julep. Just bring your wager for the hopeful winning horse!

Testers Choice
Anna Scott

May 01, 2014

It's funny because when I smell fresh mint, the first thing I think of is a refreshing mint julep like this one. I blame it on my college years in Kentucky, the glorious land of bourbon. But seriously, this is one of those traditional cocktails that I truly believe will never go out of style. By traditional, I mean it has a special glass to be served in, is classically served with crushed ice, and it's the official drink of one of the classic sporting events, the Kentucky Derby. I've made mint juleps in the past with simple syrup, but I like the ease of just using granulated sugar here. Saves time overall and is just as delicious. Some mint juleps are made too sweet in my opinion, but I thought the ratio of ingredients here was spot-on.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

May 01, 2014

Truth be told this was my very first mint julep and dare I say it was dangerously yummy. I used conventional spearmint leaves and a good quality, but affordable bourbon. What I learned in this first go at muddling the leaves was to "take it easy." Focus on pressing down but don't twist the muddler or you risk shredding the leaves. This was the folly of my first attempt, and the naughty green bits in my teeth were a telltale sign of my flawed technique. Experienced mixologists must be chuckling at my revelation, but as with all cooking and entertaining endeavors, finesse once again does create a superior product, and this recipe test reinforced that. This Brooklyn girl just got southern schooled.

Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

May 01, 2014

For mint julep purists, this iconic Southern drink is as simple as it gets. Sugar, water, mint, and good bourbon. There's a healthy amount of bourbon in this drink, so be warned. It was simple to muddle the sugar and mint. Since I didn't have crushed ice on hand, I put a couple cups of ice cubes in a heavy resealable plastic freezer bag and bashed it with a rolling pin. I added the semi-crushed ice and poured the bourbon over the top and voila! A drink reminiscent of big porch swings and summer. For my own taste, I found this drink to be very strong so added a little more water and a few more mint leaves. While not quite as the recipe intended, it was very minty and refreshing. When I make this drink again, I'd recommend using superfine or even granulated sugar as the turbinado sugar never fully dissolved.

Testers Choice
Elie Nassar

May 01, 2014

Like most traditional cocktails, this is a simple recipe. What it boils down to is the proper ratio of spirit to sweetener, dilution, and flavoring. This recipe nails the ratio perfectly for my taste. It makes a drink that's boozy enough and with a lovely hint of mint and the right amount of sweetness. I love how the drink is not completely mixed up and you get to adjust how much sweetness or bourbon you get in every sip.

Assuming one is a total novice and never made anything like this before, here are a few things I've learned: The recipe tells you to use a muddler to crush the mint leaves. For my taste, just gently crush the leaves to bruise them well. Crushing to a pulp makes for an oxidized and harsh drink. We're also told to add the water and stir—I'd stir for about 20 seconds or so; this gives you a partially dissolved sugar with some crunchy bits that I love. And garnish with a mint sprig on top; this gets you a whiff of fresh mint with every sip.

Comments
Comments
  1. ruthie says:

    Just wondering, could you give the turbinado a whirl in the blender etc. to break it down for better dissolving? It really sounds like the best choice of the sugars, to me, so it’s a shame not to use it if you can.

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