Classic Mint Julep Recipe

The mint julep is a drink that many of us associate with one particular occasion: the Kentucky Derby. While the other Triple Crown races each have their signature drinks (the Belmont has more than one), the julep/Derby connection may be one of the best-known associations between a sporting event and a specific drink.

While recipe developer Michelle McGlinn calls her recipe "a classic mint julep," it does call for one ingredient that's not included in many mint juleps: a splash of bitters. She does note, however, that this is an optional ingredient if it's not something you care for. She says the bitters taste "kind of citrusy [and] spicy" (not to mention bitter), and tells us she feels "it makes the drink look like a fancy snow cone." If you've yet to try a mint julep, McGlinn says the drink is "comparable to an Old Fashioned, but much lighter tasting with the addition of mint and shaved ice." She suggests that even people who don't care for bourbon might want to give the drink a try as the ice goes a long way toward diluting that spirit's distinctive flavor.

Assemble the ingredients for a classic mint julep

As this is a mint julep, you'll need mint, of course -– McGlinn says the type of mint used here is spearmint, but assures us that "the packs at the grocery stores are almost always spearmint as it's the most common variety." You'll also need bourbon, so pick your favorite. The bitters, as already mentioned, are optional, but they definitely add some complexity to the drink.

There are two more ingredients called for in this recipe, but we have a bit more to say about each of these. McGlinn likes to use pellet ice — something she calls "the good ice" — to make her juleps. She buys hers at fast food restaurants, but says it should be available at Walmart and Home Depot as well. If not, you can certainly make this drink with crushed ice instead. McGlinn also uses simple syrup in her juleps, which you could buy at the store, or make your own.

Muddle the mint and add the booze

Once your ingredients are ready, get out a glass — a short, chunky one like a rocks glass will work. If you happen to have a julep cup on hand, of course you can put that to good use, too. Put the mint leaves into the glass, then pour the simple syrup over them. Get out your trusty muddler and muddle away until the mint is crushed, then pour in the bourbon.

Ice the drink and make it frosty

Fill the glass with ice, but not quite all the way as you'll need some room for stirring. Stir the ice with the booze and minty syrup for about 30 seconds, until the glass is frosted. At this point, add some more ice, enough to form a snow cone-like heap on top of the glass.

Finish the julep off with bitters and/or a garnish

If you want to add the bitters, sprinkle them over the top of the ice. You can also garnish the drink with some additional mint if you want to make it look pretty.

If you're serving juleps for a Derby Day watch party, they go well with such southern-inspired fare as pimiento cheese, deviled eggs, hush puppies, and barbecue. As McGlinn puts it, these dishes would "speak to the traditional Derby style."

Classic Mint Julep Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
This classic mint julep recipe is refreshing, and the addition of bitters adds some wonderful complexity to the flavor.
Prep Time
Cook Time
mint julep with bourbon and napkin
Total time: 4 minutes
  • 8 fresh spearmint leaves
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
Optional Ingredients
  • 2 dashes bitters
  1. Muddle mint leaves and simple syrup in a rocks glass or julep cup, until the mint leaves are crushed.
  2. Pour the bourbon over the muddled mint.
  3. Add ice to fill the glass, but do not overfill.
  4. Stir the ice with the bourbon and mint for about 30 seconds, until the glass is frosty.
  5. Add enough remaining ice to form a pile on top of the cup. Sprinkle the bitters over the ice, if desired.
  6. Garnish the drink with fresh mint.
Calories per Serving 180
Total Fat 0.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 10.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Total Sugars 10.4 g
Sodium 8.6 mg
Protein 0.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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