The Classic Mint Julep

The Cocktail of the Kentucky Derby- here is the classic recipe, where to buy silver mint julep cups and tips to host a perfect Derby soirée.

a frosted silver julep cup filled with ice next to a vase of red roses

Ingredients in a Classic Mint Julep:

Good bourbon, but not a high-end bourbon like Blanton’s, Pappy, or Eagle Rare. A nice simple drinking bourbon is what you want- caramel notes, warm and smooth. Simple. Maker’s, Woodford, or Four Roses.

Simple syrup– clean water, plain white granulated sugar- boil, simmer, chill. That’s it. The only acceptable variation is a slice of lemon peel or mint leaves in your simple syrup while it chills. Bourbon, lemon, and mint love each other- but that’s it. I read a recipe from a food writer from the New York Times using powdered sugar to muddle the mint. Blasphemy. No- it shall not be done. See my full simple syrup recipe below.

Ice– Shaved or crushed ice. Big ice cubes do not work. A julep is a practically a frozen cocktail. Hey, it’s darn hot in the South. We need cold beverages.

Mint– Fresh. Muddle two leaves in the bottom of your julep cup. Then garnish with more mint. Ahh. I do declare, I am feelin’ rather refreshed now.

a silver julep cup next to a copper cocktail shaker

Equipment needed for this cocktail:

  • Silver julep cup- see my “where to buy guide below”
  • Wooden Muddler
  • Cocktail shaker – buy my favorite HERE
a frosted silver julep cup filled with ice next to a vase of red roses

What to serve at your Kentucky Derby party:

Pimento Cheese Spread

Fire Crackers

Peach jam

serve with cheese cream or goat cheese and crackers

Southern Chicken Salad

Mac & Cheese

Bourbon Maple Pecan bars

mint leaves being muddled to make a mint julep

Where to buy silver mint julep cups:

a mint julep cup and a cocktail shaker filled with ice

Tips for a perfect Mint Julep:

  • Make your simple syrup a day or two in advance so it is cold.
  • Buy crushed ice from Chick-fil-A- they sell it by the bag.
  • Grow your own mint in a large pot so you’ll have plenty- never plant mint in the ground- it will take over your garden.
  • Polish your julep cups with Wright’s Silver polish a day or two before your party and wash with warm soapy water.
a frosted silver julep cup filled with ice next to a vase of red roses

How to make Simple Syrup for Cocktails:

Add 1 cup granulated white sugar to a saucepan of 1 cup of simmering water. Stir over medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Infuse hot syrup with mint sprigs or lemon peel. Remove mint or lemon after 15 minutes. Let syrup cool completely. Store in an airtight glass jar in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

The Derby is the ultimate Springtime sporting event- the horses, the hats, and those icy cold frosty juleps. Back in the day, Hunky Hubbie and I threw fantastic Kentucky Derby parties. We served our guests creamy mac and cheese, fried chicken from Queenie Bee’s in Orlando, pimento cheese appetizers, and bourbon pecan bars.

The Classic Mint Julep

Recipe by Meggen Arthur Wilson Course: Cocktails, Party FoodCuisine: SouthernDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





The Classic Mint Julep- serve in a silver julep cup with crushed ice and fresh mint for the quintessential Southern Summer cocktail


  • 2 oz bourbon- I prefer Four Roses or Makers Mark for a Julep

  • 1 oz simple syrup

  • 2 leaves fresh mint leaves

  • 1 sprig mint

  • crushed ice


  • In a double old-fashioned or sterling julep cup, muddle the mint leaves to release their oils.
  • Add crushed ice to the top of the glass. Pour in the bourbon and simple syrup. Stir well. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.
  • For the best cocktail, keep your glassware in the freezer prior to mixing. You can always add more bourbon. We don’t judge.
  • For batch cocktails- triple the amount of each ingredient, add to a cocktail shaker with ice, and then pour over your crushed ice in the julep cups.

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