The Mint Julep is a bourbon cocktail best known for being the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. But this refresher composed of bourbon, sugar, mint and crushed ice shouldn’t be reserved for only one day a year.
The Mint Julep gained prominence in the southern United States during the 18th century, and it first appeared in print in 1803 in John Davis’ book “Travels of Four and a Half Years in the United States of America.” He wrote that the Mint Julep is a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” An ice-cold whiskey drink is certainly one way to start your day.
Since its creation, the Mint Julep has remained popular, but the julep itself is actually a category of drinks featuring a spirit served over crushed ice. So, it comes in more varieties than only bourbon and mint, and it’s likely that the first juleps were made with cognac or even peach brandy. After the phylloxera epidemic of the mid-1800s, which infected France’s grapevines and temporarily hindered that counry’s cognac trade, whiskey became the julep’s go-to liquor.
The Mint Julep is traditionally served in a rocks glass or, ideally, in a silver julep cup. Since bourbon is the only liquid in the drink, you’ll want to use a high-quality bottle that you know you love. A slightly higher-proof bourbon—something in the mid-80s or around 90—will keep the crushed ice from diluting the cocktail too quickly.
This recipe comes from San Diego bartender Erick Castro. Try making it for yourself, and see how a few ingredients can combine for ultimate refreshment. Sure, the Mint Julep is typically consumed on Derby Day, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying one whenever the mood strikes.
Watch Now: How to Make an Easy Mint Julep
8 mint leaves
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces bourbon
Garnish: mint sprig
Garnish: Angostura bitters (optional)
In a Julep cup or rocks glass, lightly muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup.
Add the bourbon then pack the glass tightly with crushed ice.
Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside.
Top with more crushed ice to form an ice dome, and garnish with a mint sprig and a few drops of bitters (optional).
Mint Sprig Garnish
Firmly slap the mint sprig on the back of your hand before garnishing; this releases the oils to make the mint more aromatic.