Mint is perhaps the cocktail’s favorite herb. It is versatile and abundantly aromatic and has found its way into mixed drinks for centuries, mostly in Juleps. Like most other herbs, it’s delicate and needs some TLC to coax the most optimal out of it. Whether a drink requires a gentle slap of a mint sprig against the back of your hand to release its essential oils to create a fragrant garnish or a gentle muddle of a handful of leaves with syrup to provide a bright, herbal depth in your drink, mint is an herb that’s incredibly rewarding and always refreshing.
From classic cocktails to contemporary riffs, these are the mint-laced drinks to add to your repertoire.
The classic Julep is most commonly associated with the iconic Kentucky Derby, where it’s the event’s official drink. But beyond that, it’s a revitalizing spirit-forward tipple that’s easily enjoyed at any time, especially during the warmer months. This recipe was created by Erick Castro, the co-founder of San Diego's Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves. He keeps the usual combination of bourbon, mint and simple syrup and tops the drink with an optional dash of Angostura bitters for visual and aromatic appeal before garnishing it with a crown of mint.
This classic remains one of the most popular rum cocktails, and the origin of the recipe is said to date back to 16th-century Cuba. The drink’s predecessor was a cocktail named El Draque, for Sir Francis Drake, the English sea captain and explorer who visited Havana in 1586, and was composed of aguardiente (a cane-spirit precursor to rum), lime, mint and sugar. While that version was supposedly enjoyed for medicinal purposes, the modern cocktail is enjoyed recreationally during the warmer months of the year. For an extra flourish, try adding some coconut milk or coconut jelly to the mix for a variation on the classic recipe.
This breezy combination of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and mint, essentially a Gin Sour with the addition of mint both muddled and as a garnish, is a favorite in seaside enclaves from Nantucket to the Hamptons and beyond. It’s best enjoyed while on a veranda overlooking a body of water.
Spicy Mint Avocado Margarita
Agave spirits and culinary ingredients always make for an exceptional pairing, so this Margarita riff with spicy jalapeño peppers, savory-creamy avocado and fresh mint hits the mark. The avocado, jalapeño, mint and lime juice are gently muddled together, then the tequila, Cointreau and simple syrup are added with ice before being shaken up for a vegetal, complex take on the Mexican favorite.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
This cocktail, created by bar pro Audrey Saunders of the late Pegu Club, takes a cue from the Mojito but twists it by using aged rum rather than white, and the other shared ingredients of lime juice, simple syrup and mint get joined by Angostura bitters and a hefty splash of Champagne, producing an elegant drink that’s as refreshing as it is delicious.
South Mint 75
The South Mint 75 is a cross between two classic cocktails: the South Side and French 75, with a touch of Southeast Asian influence by way of a zippy lemongrass syrup. Gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, the syrup, and fresh mint are shaken with ice and strained into a coupe before getting topped with sparkling wine for effervescent texture and nuanced flavor.
Mint Green Old Fashioned
This drink was created by legendary bartender Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail, and employs mint in four different ways: mint sprigs, mint syrup, mint jelly and mint bitters. The four get muddled with a cherry and a bit of orange before being stirred together with scotch whisky. The cocktail gets garnished with an additional mint sprig to aromatically emphasize the theme.
Gin Gin Mule
Falling somewhere between a Moscow Mule and Mojito, this drink, another from Saunders and a staple at the former Pegu Club, is well on its way to becoming a modern classic. It’s made with gin, lime juice, simple syrup and mint and topped with the secret ingredient: homemade ginger beer.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
Pineapple Mint Caipirinha
If you’re a fan of the classic Caipirinha, get ready to elevate it with pineapple and mint. Just add some pineapple chunks, mint leaves and simple syrup into a shaker and gently muddle, then add cachaça and ice and shake it all up. It’s so fresh it’s almost transportive.
This Mojito riff, created by bartending legend Jim Meehan and sharing a name with the famed London botanical garden, is everything you’d imagine it to be: herbaceous, vegetal and floral. It combines blended rum, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, simple syrup, mint and cucumber, the latter two ingredients muddled before being joined by the others.
This classic cocktail is a fruity 19th-century cousin to the Mint Julep. The main difference between the two is that the Smash also calls for muddling some fruit in addition to the mint. DeGroff served Whiskey Smashes at the Rainbow Room in New York when he was behind the bar during the late 1980s and ’90s, which helped to popularize and reintroduce this classic to modern drinkers. His version, the one we provide here, is made with bourbon, muddled lemon wedges and mint.