When mint juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby, they're made with mint simple syrup. It's a way to make the cocktails more quickly than muddling fresh mint and sugar together for each individual drink. Considering the Derby serves over 120,000 of the ice-cold cocktails during a two-day period, it makes sense they choose the simple syrup route.

If you're planning on hosting a Derby Day party, using mint simple syrup can make it easier for you to make mint juleps for your guests, too. It's quick and easy to make. Make it a few days ahead of time, freeing up even more time on Derby Day.

Mint simple syrup recipe

fresh mint Use fresh mint to make an easy mint simple syrup. (Photo: Oxana Denezhkina/Shutterstock)

The recipe is a 1:1:1 ratio, meaning it's equal parts water, sugar and mint leaves. Adjust the amount of the ingredients depending on how much simple syrup you want to make. You'll need one ounce of the finished simple syrup for each mint julep.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup of packed mint leaves

Directions

  1. Add water and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved into the water. Do not boil.
  2. Remove from heat. Toss the mint leaves into the saucepan and put the lid on.
  3. Steep the mint leaves for about 20 to 30 minutes. You may be tempted to leave them in longer for a stronger syrup, but that may result in bitterness.
  4. Strain into a clean container with a lid. Allow to cool.
  5. Refrigerate for up to one week.

Making mint juleps and more

sorbet Mint simple syrup is versatile. It can be used to flavor soups, iced tea and even refreshing sorbet. (Photo: Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock)

Use the mint simple syrup in the second of these two mint julep recipes, throwing a few fresh leaves in for color and garnish. Don't save the syrup for the Derby Day cocktails only, though. It has many other culinary uses.

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

How to make mint simple syrup for a mint julep
This easy simple syrup helps to quickly build the cocktail on Derby Day.