How to make a mint julep in honor of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby’s essential accompaniment is, of course, the mint julep. Churchill Downs reports serving about 120,000 mint juleps over the two-day derby weekend, which officially includes the Kentucky Oaks horse race on Friday and the celebrated Kentucky Derby itself on Saturday, May 7.

Traditionally served in sterling silver juleps, the drink is a refreshing, easy-to-prepare amalgam of bourbon, simple syrup, mint and crushed ice. Think of it as a den-of-vice snowball. Around town you can find many renditions at local bars and restaurants, like classic cocktailery Hayride Scandal; Houmas House & Gardens, which makes a rum version; and the Lost Cove, known for its deep bench of brown liquors.

If you’re planning to host a Derby Day party, here’s the official Churchill Downs recipe. Note the instructions to “slap” mint, a common practice among bartenders to gently press herb leaves before garnishing a glass in order to release their aromatics.

The Old Forester Mint Julep Recipe

3 ounces Old Forester Mint Julep
¾ ounce simple syrup
8-10 mint leaves
3 mint sprigs for garnish

Pack mint julep cup with crushed ice. In a mixing glass, combine bourbon, syrup and mint leaves. Lightly bruise mint leaves with a muddler. Strain contents into julep cup. Garnish with three generous sprigs of mint. Make sure to slap mint, and insert straw into ice near mint.

Recipe source: kentuckyderby.com

This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of 225 magazine.