We’ll show you how to mix and muddle the perfect mint julep, a strong and sweet classic cocktail that’s just right for slow sipping in a frosty glass. This simple drink recipe requires only four ingredients (silver cups, fancy hats, and southern accents are all optional).
What’s a julep anyways? The name goes back to an Arabic drink made from water and rose petals called julab. It spread to the Mediterranean region where the rose was replaced by fresh mint leaves–and today’s incarnation is no less aromatic and refreshing.
So refreshing, in fact, that farmers in the American southeast supposedly used to swig a mint julep at dawn as a pick-me-up. We’ll stick to toothpaste for our morning dose of minty freshness.. but we do love to sip a mint julep on a warm afternoon.
Of course the most legendary mint juleps are the ones that have been served at the Kentucky Derby ever since they debuted at 75 cents in 1938. These days the annual horse race sells 120,000 cups of its signature drink at $11 each (unless you order the special one in a gold-plated souvenir cup, which will run you a bar tab of more than $2,000).
A glass full of crushed ice is an essential building block of the perfect mint julep; as the ice melts, it mellows the drink and makes every sip cooler than the last. But if you don’t have an ice crusher, you can make your own crushed ice by pulsing regular ice cubes in a blender (just make sure you drain off any water from melted ice), or putting ice cubes into a zipped plastic bag and giving ’em a good whack.
Simple syrup is also really easy to DIY: combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan, heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let the syrup cool down before using it. (Make a big batch as an incentive to treat yourself to more cocktails, and keep the extra in the fridge.)
Makes 1 cocktail
- 8 – 10 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 ounce simple syrup, or to taste
- 2 ounces bourbon (preferably Kentucky bourbon)
- crushed ice
- powdered sugar (optional)
- silver julep cup or rocks glass
- Place 8 to 10 mint leaves in the bottom of a chilled, silver julep cup or rocks glass (a.k.a. an Old Fashioned glass). Add simple syrup and lightly press the mint leaves against the sides and bottom of the cup for a few seconds with a muddler. Over muddling might give the finished drink a bitter or grassy flavor, so you don’t want to crush the mint leaves–just bruise them enough to release the essential oils in the mint. (You can tell when this has happened by the intense mint smell.)
- Pack the julep cup or glass with crushed ice. Pour a generous 2 ounces of bourbon over the ice and stir until the glass frosts. Add more ice, and stir again.
- Garnish with a few sprigs of mint and a dusting of powdered sugar, if desired. Serve with a straw.