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Three mint juleps in copper Moscow mule mugs on a green placement garnished with mint leaves.

Original Mint Julep Recipe

A classic, authentic mint julep recipe to sip during the Kentucky Derby! To keep with tradition, choose a 100-proof, bonded bourbon. But if that's not in the cards for you, any Kentucky bourbon is delicious.

To pump up the mint flavor, you can infuse your simple syrup with fresh spearmint. But a plain simple syrup or sugar cubes is the most authentic. 

Classically, mint juleps are stirred one at a time in individual cups. The key is to stir until the glass frosts over. After all, May can get a bit balmy in Kentucky! 

  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 Mint Julep 1x



Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh mint, optional

Mint Julep

  • Double shot/2 ounces/¼ cup of Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 shot/1 ounce/2 tablespoons of simple syrup (or two small sugar cubes)
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves removed from one stem


Mint Simple Syrup

  1. Combine all of the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir the syrup and immediately remove the pot from the heat.
  2. Submerge the mint in the hot syrup, and cool to room temperature.
  3. Once cooled, remove the mint and store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. I like to keep the simple syrup in a squeeze bottle for quick and easy measuring.

The Cocktail

  1. Pluck the mint leaves off of one sprig and place them in the bottom of your glass. Pour in the simple syrup or a couple of sugar cubes.
  2. Crush, or muddle the leaves and sugar with a pestle or cocktail muddler. Or just the back of a spoon.
  3. Add the bourbon to the glass, and fill it with crushed ice.
  4. Stir the cocktail until the glass frosts over.
  5. Garnish with more fresh mint leaves or an entire sprig. 


On choosing bourbon... For a true throwback to the original julep, look for a bourbon that's 90-proof or higher. Bonded Bourbon, a certification for 100-proof bourbon oak-aged for four years, would be the ultimate in authenticity. Old Forester comes to mind. But even a 90-proof Maker's Mark will stand up to the melting ice quite nicely. I recommend Bulleit and Four Roses, as both are craft bourbons, meet the requirements, and lend tasting notes that jive with mint.

On serving glasses... The iconic cocktail of derby fame is traditionally served in silver or pewter cups with or without a handle. This drink is so self-important it has a cup of its own name. If you don't have or don't want or don't have time to find a julep cup, any high ball glass, old-fashioned glass, or Moscow mule mug is a friendly vessel. A stemless wine glass works, too.

Virgin Mint Julep

For a mint julep without bourbon, muddle the fresh mint leaves with sugar syrup or cubes. Then fill the glass almost to the top with crushed ice, and splash in club soda or your favorite sparkling water. Garnish the drink with fresh mint leaves.

Dietary Variations

Paleo and GAPS Diet. For a julep fit for a caveman or allowed while on the GAPS diet protocol, replace the simple syrup with half the amount in honey. That's all, folks!

Keto or Low-Carb. Ditch the simple syrup. Gently crush the mint by itself, and proceed as usual. Be prepared for a slap in the face of smoky, oaky, spicy bourbon with a bit of a mint finish.

  • Author: Christina
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Drinks
  • Method: Stirred Cocktail
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Low Fat


  • Serving Size: 1 Mint Julep
  • Calories: 190
  • Sugar: 14.1 g
  • Sodium: 0.4 mg
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14.2 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: mint julep recipe, virgin mint julep, mint julep with less sugar, kentucky derby, bourbon cocktail