Mix up your Mint Juleps: five ways to make the Derby's classic cocktail

3:12 | Horse Racing
A guide to making the perfect mint julep for the Kentucky Derby
Monday April 17th, 2017

The Mint Julep has become as synonymous with the Kentucky Derby as peanut butter is with jelly. So as you prepare to watch yet another historic run on May 6 at the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, why not mix things up?

Over 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over Kentucky Derby Weekend, and that doesn’t even touch on the thousands being downed around the country as displaced Southerners watch their chosen horse round the corner toward that beloved finish line. To those from Kentucky, and those who wish they were, a Mint Julep is more than just a drink—it’s a symbol of tradition for one of the most emotional sports days of the year.

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And while we’re big fans of the classic—I mean what’s not to love about seeing a mound of crushed ice in a silver Julep cup with that fresh mint sprig?—we’re also intrigued by the idea of slowly sipping on a bourbon beauty with a few extra ingredients. Champagne Mint Julep, anyone? Or how about a Sweet Tea Mint Julep garnished with a lemon wedge? I’ll take two of those, please!

Thanks to our friends at Maker’s Mark, we’ve got five ways to stir up a Mint Julep that will help you get ready for a weekend full of “My Old Kentucky Home,” wide-brim hats and plenty of those cocktails we know all too well.

No. 1: The Maker's Mark Mint Julep

Rumor has it that the Mint Julep first made its print debut back in 1803 and may have been used earlier than that as a cure for stomach aches. Luckily for Derby Day patrons, we now know the drink as an essential part of Southern spring culture. Not feeing daring? Fear not—we can’t blame you for sticking to the classic recipe when it tastes this good.

Ingredients

1-1/2 parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon

Fresh mint

2 tablespoons simple syrup* muddled with mint

Splash of distilled water

Powdered sugar

Mint sprig for garnish

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup distilled water

Instructions

*For simple syrup, add 1 cup granulated sugar to 1 cup water in a saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar, stirring constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

Mix together simple syrup muddled with mint, Maker’s Mark® Bourbon and distilled water.

No. 2: The Watermelon Basil Mint Julep

Tasty, refreshing and the perfect cocktail to get you through race day and beyond! Watch as a summer staple meets its smooth bourbon counterpart in this daring Mint Julep spin.

Ingredients:

3-5 cubes of fresh watermelon

2 parts Makers Mark® Bourbon

1 part lime juice

4 basil leaves

Mint spring

Coarse sea salt

Instructions:

Muddle mint and basil with watermelon cubes.

Stir in Makers Mark® Bourbon and lime juice.

Pour over crushed ice and sprinkle with sea salt.

No 3: The Champagne Mint Julep

It’s time to up the ante at your Derby Day gathering with this sophisticated twist on the mint-infused staple. Watch spring sparkle as this bubbly makeover sees champagne and elderflower elevate the drink we all know and love.

Ingredients:

2 parts Makers Mark® Bourbon

2 parts sparkling white wine or champagne

1/2 parts elderflower liqueur

Lemon twist and mint for garnish

Instructions:

Mix together Maker’s Mark® Bourbon, sparkling white wine, elderflower liqueur.

Muddle with mint.

Pour over crushed ice and garnish with lemon twist.

No. 4: The Strawberry Mint Julep

This strawberry-kissed sipper is a tasty take on a tried-and-true classic! Can’t picture lemon juice and strawberries in your Mint Julep? Think again. The addition of these two sweet ingredients makes this cocktail one that even the most amateur bourbon drinker is guaranteed to enjoy.

Ingredients:

2 parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon

2 fresh strawberries

1 part simple syrup

6 mint leaves

1 part fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

Muddle strawberries, mint leaves and simple syrup in mixing glass.

Add Maker’s Mark® Bourbon and lemon juice and fill with ice.

Shake well and double strain into a martini glass.

No. 5: The Sweet Tea Mint Julep

Remember when some famous golfer got the crazy idea to combine sweet tea and lemonade in one glass? Well this blend of two Southern favorites, Mint Juleps and sweet tea, follows that stroke of genius.  And while this drink is obviously perfect for Derby Day, we’re pretty sure you’ll love it so much you’ll be drinking them in a rocking chair on the front porch all summer long.

Ingredients:

4 parts freshly brewed and chilled black tea

2 parts Maker’s Mark® Bourbon

1 part simple syrup

1/4 parts fresh lemon juice

Mint and lemon wedge garnish

Instructions:

Muddle mint with simple syrup.

In a highball glass, pour Maker’s Mark® Bourbon, chilled black tea, muddle simple syrup and lemon juice over ice.

Stir and garnish with a fresh mint sprig and lemon wedge.

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