Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe

This wonderful refreshing Mint Julep cocktail is very popular in Kentucky.  People from Charleston, South Carolina, also like to claim the mint julep as their own.  It is always made with fresh mint, bourbon, and plenty of crushed or shaved ice.


Mint JulepDerby Day in Kentucky:

To the people of other states and the uninitiated, this phrase has little meaning.  But lovers of horse racing all over the country thrill at the mention of these words.  For the Kentucky Derby is the most important horse race of the world.  Thousand of visitors come to Louisville just for the event on the first Saturday of May.

Traditionally, the Mint Julep Cocktail is served at the Kentucky Derby and served in silver or pewter mugs, although it is by no means essential.  If you are lucky enough to own such heirlooms, chill the cups thoroughly before mixing your mint juleps.  Glass tumblers may be substituted for silver cups if necessary – they will not frost, however.  According to some Southerners, a Mint Julep Cocktail is the not the product of a formula, but a ceremony.  The drink as we know it today is an American invention.

You may not have access to heirloom silver or pewter Mint Julep mugs, but you can buy a nice Klikel Mint Julep Classic Beaded Mug from Amazon affiliate link

Kentuckians maintain that when a mint julep is made right, you can hear angels sing.  Always made with fresh mint, Kentucky bourbon, and plenty of crushed or shaved ice, it is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.  Thousands of mint juleps are served every year at the Derby, on the first Saturday in May, at Churchill Downs, and at weekend Derby parties around the nation.



Mint Julep History:

The mint julep appears to have its roots in the Arab world, according to Chris Morris, master distiller for Woodford Reserve Bourbon and a spirits historian.  Morris says today’s julep began centuries ago as an Arabic drink called the “julab,” which was made from water and rose petals.  As the julab migrated to the Mediterranean, that region’s indigenous mint replaced the rose petals.


1700s – Mint juleps have been served in the south since the 1700s.  A visitor in 1774, describing the southern menu and especially breakfast as being overly luxurious, observed that the average planter rose early and had his drink (because a julep before breakfast was believed to give protection against malaria).


1816 – The Old White Tavern in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, later the Greenbrier Hotel, was famous for its mint juleps.

The oldest account book at the resort dates to 1816 and it reveals that guests were ordering “julips” at a cost of twenty-five cents or three for fifty cents.  Excerpt from John H. B. Latrobe and His Times, 1803-1891, by John Edward Semmes,  Published by The Norman, Remington co., 1917, states that the 1832 journal of well-known Baltimore lawyer John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891) wrote:

“I saw here for the first time a hailstorm, that is to say, a mint julep made with a hailstorm around it.  The drink is manufactured pretty much as usual and well led with a quantity of ice chopped in small pieces, which is then put in the shape of a fillet around the outside of the tumbler where it adheres like a ring of rock candy and forms an external icy application to your lower lip as you drink it, while the ice within the glass presses against your upper lip.  It is nectar, they say, in this part of the country.”


1865 – Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865), brandy or whiskey was common in a Julep, but after the war and the poverty of the South, gave rise to the use of less expensive bourbon.


1875 – The racetracks’ clubhouse began mixing mint juleps around 1875.  The drink really became popular and became the track’s signature libation in 1938 when the management began charging 75 cents for the drink and the small glass vessel it came in.  Every year during Derby week at Churchill Downs, more than 80,000 mint juleps are served.



Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe:
Prep Time
5 mins

I have tried several recipes and I found that I like making a mint syrup first. They say a Yankee ca not make one properly.  Since I am a Yankee, you be the judge!  

These drinks appear to be a most innocuous concoction, but has a potent kick, as anyone who has tasted it for the first time can testify.  The drink should be sipped slowly and not tossed off at a gulp!  When to actually add mint leaves into the Julep drink is debated by Southerners.  Arguments rage over its proper usage, some voting for muddling the leaves with water and sugar, others for infusing them in the syrup, and a third faction maintaining that a sprig as garnish should suffice.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: Watermelon Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe
Servings: 1 serving
Mint Julep Cocktail:
  • Mint  leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Syrup
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon (good-quality)
  • Fresh mint sprig
Mint Syrup:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch fresh mint sprigs
Mint Julep Cocktails Instructions:
  1. Prepare the Mint Syrup (see recipe below).

  2. Crush or muddle a few mint leaves in the bottom of an 8-ounce Mint Julep Cup (using the back of a spoon to crush mint leaves) until mixture forms a paste.

  3. Then fill the Mint Julep Cup 1/2 full with crushed or shaved ice.  Add prepared Mint Syrup, water, and bourbon.  Stir until the silver cup is frosted on the outside.  NOTE: A glass tumbler will not frost on the outside.

  4. To serve, garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.

Mint Syrup Instructions:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Boil for 5 minutes, without stirring.

  2. Remove from heat an pour over a handful of mint leaves and gently crush the mint with a spoon.

  3. Refrigerator syrup mixture overnight in a closed jar.  Remove mint leaves and continue to refrigerate.  This syrup mixture will keep for several weeks.

  4. Makes enough syrup for approximately 8 servings.


You may not have access to heirloom silver or pewter Mint Julep mugs, but you can buy a nice Klikel Mint Julep Classic Beaded Mug from Amazon affiliate link

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