Cocktails: The Mint Julep

Every year, on the first Saturday in May, one of the most iconic sporting events happens just outside of downtown Louisville, KY – The Kentucky Derby. This year will be the 144th annual race, which in 2015 brought a record 170,513 spectators to Churchill Downs. Unsurprisingly, after 144 years, the event has a few traditions. Whether you’re attending the event, going to a watch party, or simply watching from home, you’ll likely notice a sea of seersucker suits, elaborate hats, and the iconic official cocktail of the event – the Mint Julep.


Although the Mint Julep is now quite closely tied to the Derby – and Kentucky in general – the drink was likely brought to the Bluegrass State from Virginia, where it was often made with rum or brandy. And the origin of the name extends even further from Kentucky. Most believe the name “Julep” comes from the Persian word gulaband the Arab julabwhich both mean “rosewater.” Regardless, the drink was made the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938 and according to the Derby website, nearly 120,000 are sold between Friday and Saturday each year.


Despite its association with the Derby, the Mint Julep doesn’t have to be a once-a-year kind of drink. It’s an incredibly refreshing cocktail throughout the entirety of Spring and Summer, and with a short list of ingredients, it’s rather easy to put together quickly at home. And although the Julep is traditionally served in an ice-frosted silver or pewter julep cup, it’s just as delicious when sipped out of a highball glass.

Making the Drink


• 2 oz Bourbon

• ½ oz Simple Syrup

• 7-8 mint leaves, plus more for garnish


1. Add 7-8 mint leaves and ½ oz simple syrup to a julep cup and muddle.

2. Add bourbon and fill with crushed ice. Stir until cup is frosted on the outside.

3. Top with more crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig.

Whether or not you’re attending or even watching the Kentucky Derby this weekend, do yourself a favor and have a Julep on the porch. Cheers!

Blake Smith