Classic Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe

A mint julep, which is something recipe developer Jaime Shelbert describes as "the bourbon-forward cocktail synonymous with the South and the Kentucky Derby," is actually a pretty simple drink. There's booze (rather a lot of it), there's a sweetener, and then there's some fresh mint to give it a little flavor. While the drink itself may not be too complex, what you're getting here is a "twofer" recipe. Yes, you learn how to build the drink, plus a few ways to tweak it if you don't want yours to be quite as strong. You also, however, get a bonus recipe in the form of a mint-flavored simple syrup.

Once you use the amount of mint syrup needed for the drink, you'll still have quite a lot of the stuff left over. Shelbert suggests that you could use it as an ice cream topping or in tea (hot or iced), or you could use it for other minty cocktails or mocktails such as mojitos. In fact, Shelbert even gives us a simple minty mocktail recipe, saying that she likes to mix it with "sparkling water with a twist of lime or lemon." For this recipe, however, you'll be putting that mint syrup to good use in a classic mint julep — so let's dive right in.

Gather the ingredients for this mint julep

To make the mint syrup, you'll need fresh mint, sugar, and water. The additional ingredients you'll need to make it into a julep include more mint, bourbon, and crushed ice.

Make the mint syrup

Mix the water and sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the syrup comes to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the syrup until all of the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat, then put six mint leaves into the syrup. Let the mint infuse the syrup as it cools down, making sure they stay in for at least 10 minutes. 

Build the drink

Choose a glass to make your drink. Shelbert likes to use a julep cup for this drink, and if you, too, are a bar-ware aficionado with such a vessel in your collection, well, there's no better time to put it to use. If not, you can always repurpose that old Moscow Mule mug, as Shelbert says that metal drinking vessels help keep the drink cold. She does say, however, that "just a classic highball [glass] works, too."

Once you've selected the appropriate cup, put 2 tablespoons of the mint syrup in the bottom of the glass along with the remaining mint leaves. Muddle or stir the mint together with the syrup, crushing it to release the mint oils. Fill the glass with crushed ice, then pour the bourbon over the top. Add more ice if needed. If you have more mint sprigs on hand, use these as a garnish.

Here's how to lower the ABV of this drink

This drink is a pretty stiff one, as the 3 ounces of bourbon it contains are diluted with nothing more than a little syrup and melted ice. If you plan to serve these at a party and/or would like to drink more than one without exceeding recommended consumption limits, you can always do a lower-ABV version. One way to do this would be to replace all or part of the bourbon with zero-proof spirits. You could also, as Shelbert suggests, "cut the bourbon in half and use equal parts club soda to top it off."

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a stiff drink every once in a while, so you can dive right into the drink as prepared. It's great for bourbon lovers, for mint lovers, or for lovers of a simple but delicious cocktail. Cheers!

Classic Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe
5 from 30 ratings
There's no cocktail more classic or refreshing than a mint julep, and now you can easily make one at home with this recipe.
Prep Time
Cook Time
mint julep with mint garnish
Total time: 5 minutes
  • 4 ounces water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 mint leaves, divided
  • 3 ounces bourbon
Optional Ingredients
  • mint sprigs, for garnish
  1. Combine the water and sugar in a pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the syrup until the sugar is completely dissolved, then turn off the heat.
  3. Stir 6 mint leaves into the simple syrup and leave them there until it cools, or for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Place 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup in a glass with the remaining mint leaves.
  5. Muddle or stir the mint and syrup.
  6. Fill the glass with crushed ice.
  7. Pour the bourbon over the ice, adding more ice if needed.
  8. Garnish the julep with extra mint sprigs if desired.
Calories per Serving 600
Total Fat 0.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 100.2 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Total Sugars 99.9 g
Sodium 5.9 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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