More than 120,000 mint juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby each year, and that doesn’t take into account the ones served at the bars and homes where people gather to watch the horse race.

If you’ll be making your own cocktails while you watch the Kentucky Derby this weekend, there are two basic ways to mix up the cocktail that’s made with bourbon, sugar and mint.

Mint Julep with Muddled Mint

If you have the time to muddle the mint for each cocktail as needed — and you want to give the impression you know a little about mixology — give this version of the Mint Julep a try.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3/4 teaspoons super fine sugar
  • 4 mint sprigs, plus an extra one for garnish
  1. Muddle the mint sprigs with the sugar in a highball glass or a traditional silver julep cup.
  2. Add the bourbon and stir, making sure sugar is dissolved.
  3. Fill the glass with ice. Stir with a bar spoon or other long-handled spoon.
  4. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
How to muddle mint leaves

This video shows how to muddle mint leaves for a mojito, but the same process is used when muddling mint for a mint julep.

Mint Julep with Mint Simple Syrup

By creating a mint simple syrup (directions below) ahead of time, you’ll be able to whip up mint juleps more quickly than with the muddling method.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce mint simple syrup
  • mint sprig for garnish
  1. Fill a highball glass or traditional silver julep cup with ice.
  2. Add bourbon and simple syrup. Stir with a bar spoon or other long-handled spoon.
  3. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
How to make Mint Simple Syrup

A basic simple syrup is one part water and one part sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves. (Here's a simple syrup recipe.) Once you know the proportions, it’s easy to add various ingredients, like mint, to flavor the sweetener used in many cocktails.


  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Turn off heat. Throw the mint leaves into the saucepan and put on the lid.
  3. Allow the leaves to steep in the syrup for about 20 minutes.
  4. Strain into a bottle and allow to cool.
  5. Refrigerate. This part can be made several days ahead of time.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.