The Award-Winning Mint Julep Recipe You Need for Your Derby Day Soirée

Mint Julep. Photo Credit The Cocktail Codex.

Derby weekend brings out the best in southern hospitality, and no Kentucky Derby party is complete without the quintessential Mint Julep. If you’re hosting a watch party to see who wins the Run for the Roses, your guests will expect handcrafted Juleps to be served.

Our recommendation? The classic Mint Julep recipe laid out by Alex Day, David Kaplan, and Nick Fauchald in their recent book The Cocktail Codex. The book is their follow up to the best-selling Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, and just this week it took home a James Beard Media Award.

The Cocktail Codex.

The Cocktail Codex lays out a thesis of cocktail symmetry and simplicity declaring that all modern cocktails come from just six fundamental recipes – The Old-Fashioned, Martini, Sidecar, Daiquiri, Whiskey Highball, and the Flip. The Julep, they argue, is just an Old Fashioned substituting mint for bitters.

Theirs is simple, focusing on technique and theory rather than complicated variations. It takes only five ingredients, if you count both the crushed ice and the iconic Julep tin. And it’s full of insider insight to let you understand every ingredient in a different way. Read on to create your perfect Derby Cocktail.

The Mint Julep, from The Cocktail Codex

1 mint bouquet
2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/4 ounce simple syrup

Rub the interior of a Julep tin with the mint bouquet, then set the mint aside. Add the bourbon and syrup and fill the tin halfway with crushed ice. Holding the tin by the rim, stir, churning the ice as you go, for about 10 seconds. Add more crushed ice to fill the tin about two-thirds full and stir until the tin is completely frosted. Add more ice to form a cone above the rim. Garnish with the mint bouquet and serve with a straw.

The recipe comes with a variety of pro tips, making your Julep easy to craft like an expert. For example, never touch your Julep cup around the sides, only on the top or the rim (touching the cup on the sides inhibits the frost you want from the crushed ice). A mint bouquet is four to five sprigs of mint together. And finally, avoid messy muddling and bruised mint leaves – only rub hard enough to smell the herb.


Caroline Paulus is the Senior Editor for The Bourbon Review. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram @misswhiskeyhistorian to keep up with her latest in bourbon news - and a few old finds, too.