How To Make A Mint Julep: Kentucky Style!

How to make a mint julep

After spending the first 38 years of my life in Kentucky, I know a thing or two about how to make a mint julep. Of course, they are mostly famous because the Kentucky Derby began serving the drink in souvenir cups in 1938. If you’ve ever been to the Kentucky Derby and had their mint julep, you were probably underwhelmed – hard to make 100,000 of them well (the number they serve Friday and Saturday of race weekend ).

However, a well-made mint julep is quite excellent. We Kentuckians like to say that when a mint julep is made right, you can hear angels sing! (especially if you drink enough of them…). To make your own, you’ll want to start with a classic mint julep recipe. And if you really want an authentic one, you need to make your own simple syrup and, even more importantly, you want to use Kentucky bourbon – Maker’s Mark.

Recipe For The Perfect Kentucky Derby Mint Julep


— Handful of mint leaves

— 1 oz. simple syrup (2 tablespoons)

— 2 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons)

Put the mint in a julep cup (preferably), or you can use a highball glass. Muddle it by pressing it gently against the sides and bottom of the cup for a few seconds. Don’t over-muddle the mint, or you’ll end up with a bitter drink. Add the simple syrup (see recipe below to make your own – much preferred – store-bought just isn’t that good).

Now fill the cup with crushed ice (only use crushed, not cubes) and add the bourbon. Stir gently for 30 seconds or so. Add a sprig of mint, and you are now ready to drink the perfect Kentucky Derby mint julep!

Simple Syrup Recipe

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves


  1. Stir ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, and let stand at least 30 minutes.
  4. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a container, discarding mint leaves. Make sure your container is air-tight.
  5. Cover and chill for 4 hours. You can store up to one month if you have any left over after your party, and it’s great to sweeten iced tea.

Mint Julep Party

Now that you know how to make a mint julep, you might want to have a Mint Julep Bar at your next party. Much like the “make your own Bloody Mary bar,” you can provide guests with several other options besides bourbon. Substitute the bourbon with gin, rum, or vodka. You might also want to have a few different options for guests to try, like this vodka julep recipe.

Mint julip

Vodka Julep Recipe

  • 2.0 oz. vodka
  • 2 tsp. of  fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. of  fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp. of pomegranate syrup
  • Mint leaves
  • Substitute simple syrup with a honey-flavored syrup if desired

Combine all the ingredients together before stirring in the honey syrup. Pour over crushed ice.

Alcohol-Free Mint Julep Mocktail

Follow the classic mint julep recipe above and substitute the bourbon with lemonade.

Sugar-Free Mint Julep

Use a sugar substitute when making your simple syrup recipe (see above). Read the substitute equivalents carefully on the package. Also, make sure you are using a baking sugar substitute, or you’ll get a very bad result.

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