Celebrate the Kentucky Derby at Home with 4 Delicious Mint Julep Recipes

From Saturday game days to oyster roasts, there’s nothing Southerners value more than our traditions, especially when it involves a party. And one of the South’s biggest social events of the year, the Kentucky Derby, is no exception.

With the real event postponed until September, Churchill Downs is hosting a day-long virtual Derby party and simulated race on May 2. And while the Run for the Roses will look a bit different this year, we’ll still be sporting festive hats and toasting with the Kentucky Derby’s official drink, the mint julep. 

Just four simple ingredients – sugar, mint, crushed ice and brown liquor – create the time-honored mint julep, which became the official drink of the Derby in 1938, when Kentucky bourbon had become a prized staple in the Bluegrass State.

Once cherished for its medicinal properties to cure sore throats, the word “julep” derives from the Arabic “julab,” which was a form of medicine made of water and rose petals.

In its simplest form, the classic mint julep is two parts of your favorite bourbon, a half part of simple syrup and a fresh mint sprig – all concocted in a silver julep cup and topped with crushed ice.

The traditional julep is one of our favorites, but if you want a new twist on the classic cocktail, you don’t have to be a mixologist to concoct any of these recipes, as featured in Garden & Gun:

Cocktail #1: Bless Your Heart Julep

Recipe from Kristina Magro of Sportsman’s Club in Chicago


> 1.5 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon

> 1 barspoon Bonne Maman blueberry jam

> 2 large basil leaves

> Pebble ice

> 1 large basil sprig

> Powdered sugar

> 1 dash Angostura bitters

Instructions: Muddle bourbon, blueberry jam and basil leaves. Top with pebble ice. Garnish with basil sprig, a dusting of powdered sugar and a dash of Angostura bitters on top of the sprig.

Cocktail #2: The Golden Gait Julep

Recipe from Alex Negranza of Tongue-Cut Sparrow in Houston, Texas.


> 1.5 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon

> Handful of mint leaves

> 2 tbsp. Champagne syrup

> Bottle of Champagne

> 3 cups sugar

> 1 tbsp. maraschino liqueur

> Pebble ice

2-3 sprays of absinthe (optional)

Instructions: 1) For the Cocktail: Muddle bourbon and mint leaves (save a few for garnish). Stir in Champagne syrup and maraschino liqueur. Add ice. Garnish with mint leaves. Spray absinthe on top. 2) For the Champagne Syrup: Grab a bottle of Champagne (pour yourself a little) and add to a pot to be reduced. Reduce down by 50 percent and add in 3 cups of sugar. This will yield enough syrup to be used in plenty of juleps. Store in an airtight container in the fridge to keep for later use.

Cocktail #3: Sparkleberry Mint Julep

Recipe from Darlin Kulla of Succotash in Washington, D.C.


> 1.5 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon

> 1 tbsp. blackberry sauce (Mix 3 pints blackberries, 0.5 cup of sugar, 0.5 cup maple syrup, juice of 2 lemons)

> 0.25 oz. lemon juice

> 0.25 oz. demerara sugar

> Pebble ice

> Splash Champagne or other dry sparkling wine

> 10 mint leaves

> 2 blackberries

> Mint sprig

Instructions: For the Cocktail: Muddle bourbon, blackberry sauce, lemon juice, and demerara sugar. Swizzle with crushed ice. Top with a splash of Champagne. Top with more pebble ice, forming a nice dome. Garnish with blackberries and a mint sprig.

Cocktail #4: Carthusian Julep

Recipe from Jayce McConnell of Edmund’s Oast in Charleston, South Carolina.


> 1 part Maker’s Mark Cask Strength bourbon

> 6 mint leaves

> 1 part green Chartreuse®

> Pebble ice

> Mint sprigs

> Thyme

> Chartreuse powder (optional)

Instructions: Muddle mint leaves gently with Chartreuse in the bottom of a cup. Add bourbon and fill halfway with pebble ice. Stir briefly. Add a metal straw and pack full of pebble ice. Garnish with lots of mint and thyme; dust with Chartreuse powder.

Off to the races we go!