The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow and whether you’re a fan of the races or you just love an excuse to have a good cocktail, there’s truly no better time to make a mint julep than on horse racing’s biggest day. This no frills recipe stays true to the cocktail’s Southern roots; all you’ll need is bourbon, simple syrup, mint and crushed ice.
Why a mint julep? Of course the drink can be made year-round but – like a margarita is to Cinco de Mayo – mint juleps are most closely associated with Derby Day. The cocktail is rumored to have evolved from a Middle Eastern beverage called the julab, which is made with water and rose petals. Somewhere down the line the rose petals were swapped with mint, a little bit of bourbon was thrown in and what we presently know as a mint julep was born.
The cocktail itself is very easy to make, but one ingredient you’ll need is simple syrup. You can use regular sugar in its place, but it’ll take longer to dissolve because the cocktail is cold. If you don’t have simple syrup handy, you can make it at home with just two ingredients: sugar and water. Add a 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and a 1/2 cup of water to a pot over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Once the simple syrup is cool, you can add it to your cocktail.
Also, when making a mint julep it’s important that you use crushed ice rather than cubed. Mint juleps are naturally pretty sweet, the ice will dilute and subtly soften the drink until you’re left with a fragrant, minty blend of ingredients. If you’re planning to celebrate the event but you’re not a fan of bourbon, check out some of our best cocktails for the Kentucky Derby beyond the mint julep.
8 mint leaves
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 1/2 ounces bourbon
Mint sprig, garnish
Step 1: In a rocks glass muddle 8 mint leaves with 1/2 ounce simple syrup.
Step 2: Add 2 1/2 ounces bourbon and a handful of crushed ice, stir well. Fill glass completely with crushed iced.
Step 3: Garnish with mint sprig.