Happy Hour: Just in time for the Kentucky Derby, what a Mint Julep is and is not

CINCINNATI - We are pleased to introduce this feature from Julie Niesen Gosdin, the voice behind the food blog wine me, dine me . Julie will be serving up a great cocktail recipe the first Friday of each month. And, watch for her "wine me, dine me pick of the week," on Thursdays when she visits a local eatery and samples a signature menu item.

It's Kentucky Derby Weekend, so there are parties all over the Tri-State. We are close enough to Bourbon Country to be almost as excited about Derby as our friends in Louisville. I'll be judging a Derby Hat contest at Japp's right before the post time, where I'm sure I'll have a Mint Julep or two before the best mile and a quarter in sports!

I know so many people who insist that they hate Mint Juleps--even bourbon drinkers. A few tips on what a Mint Julep isn't:

  1. It is not a mojito with bourbon. There shouldn't be any Sprite or sour mix in it.
  2. It should not be green. No, really. It shouldn't. This isn't St. Patrick's Day.
  3. You do not need to use special Mint Julep bourbon. Your Julep will taste like toothpaste. I don't find that appealing.

What it is: mint, bourbon, sugar and ice. That's it.

A good bartender will crush the ice in an ice bag, and it'll be almost like a minty bourbon-y Sno Cone. At home, I don't have Julep cups and I lightly crush the ice, but it's still a delicious cocktail.

You can use sugar (powdered is traditional, most people just use granulated) and muddle the fresh mint with a little water. If you're making more than one, minted simple syrup makes this really easy. I promise you'll change your mind about the Mint Julep.


  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 3-4 sprigs of mint (if you are muddling; have extra on hand for garnish)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Crushed or shaved ice to fill the glass

If you are muddling, put the mint and the simple syrup, and a bit of the bourbon into the glass. With a wooden muddler, press the mint leaves gently against the bottom of the cup. Fill the cup with crushed ice, and add the remainder of the bourbon (or the bourbon and minted simple syrup, if you are not muddling). Stir with a bar spoon until the outside of the glass is frosty. Garnish with sprigs of mint, and enjoy!

To make minted simple syrup...

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5-6 sprigs mint

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients, and simmer until combined. Cool. Strain into a re-sealable container (to remove mint springs) and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.



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