15 Mint Julep Recipes for the Kentucky Derby

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MINT CONDITION

Mint juleps have become a hallmark of the Kentucky Derby, offering a way for people everywhere to take part in a bit of Southern tradition. Many bars and restaurants serve experimental twists on the julep -- at a premium, and many are so refreshing that the cost of a few rounds can add up quickly. Making custom drinks at home keeps the cost of each mint julep around $2 to $3, even with good-quality whiskey at around $20 a bottle. These 15 recipes have something for everyone, starting with the tried-and-true classic.

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CLASSIC MINT JULEP

To nail the crispness, refreshment, and strength of the classic, use crushed ice. It's hard to find in stores, and buying it from specialty sellers can be expensive, so make your own by lightly smashing any size ice in a cloth-covered zip-top bag. Recipe: Food52

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FROZEN MINT JULEP

Make the classic more fun by whizzing it in a blender. The slush-like consistency makes this drink even easier to prepare than the original and takes the pressure off of getting the right size ice bits. Recipe: Food.com

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MANGO MINT JULEP

Mango pairs surprisingly well with sweet, robust whiskey and punchy mint. Mango nectar is often less expensive than fresh mango and is already in liquid form to be added seamlessly to the basic recipe. Recipe: Let's Mingle
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SPICY MINT JULEP

A little heat goes a long way and can actually help cool you down in hot weather -- one of the hallmarks of the original mint julep. To go even spicier than the jalapeƱo in the recipe, swap in a hotter chili such as serrano or habanero. Recipe: People

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MEXICAN JULEP

Mint juleps combine frosty ice, bright mint, and a touch of sweetness for a crisp and endlessly sippable drink that can be paired with tequila or mezcal just as well as bourbon. Stick to an inexpensive 100 percent agave blanco tequila for fresh flavor and a good price. Recipe: The Cocktail Project

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VODKA MINT JULEP

Those who like the idea of a cold, minty drink but don't like brown spirits can indulge in this lighter take on the classic. It's as simple as replacing the whiskey with plain or flavored vodka. Recipe: Sophisticated Edge

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BLACKBERRY MINT JULEP

Blackberries are a seasonal summer treat that pairs naturally with mint. Muddling a few into a drink creates layers of flavor with a small amount of fruit. Frozen blackberries can be thawed to use in place of fresh and added whole to the final drink. Recipe: Food & Wine

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BLUEBERRY MINT JULEP

Blueberries add a layer of flavor and sweetness, softening some of the sharper mint flavors while creating a dramatic color. Frozen berries work as well as fresh, so go with the cheaper option and save. Recipe: How Sweet It Is

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BROWN SUGAR VANILLA MINT JULEP

Two of the most common flavors in bourbon are brown sugar and vanilla, thanks to the intense oak aging process. Adding a small amount of these low-cost ingredients subtly yet powerfully kicks up the flavor and indulgence of the drink. Recipe: Creative Culinary

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MATCHA MINT JULEP

The earthiness of matcha plays nicely with mint, giving a julep an herbaceous spin. Just a small amount of matcha is enough to add flavor and a striking color to the final product. Recipe: The Bojon Gourmet

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MINT JULEP SWEET TEA

This combination of two Southern classics is dangerously sweet and sippable. The sweet tea adds volume at little expense, which makes the drink last a bit longer. Recipe: Southern Living

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GINGER JULEP

Ginger is one of the least expensive and most flavorful ingredients, which is why it's so popular in modern mixology. The spicy flavor adds complexity and a Caribbean twist. Recipe: Food & Wine

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SPARKLING MINT JULEP

Lighten up the drink by making it with a bit of bubbly. Use less bourbon to account for the alcohol in the sparkling wine, which can be inexpensive cava or prosecco. Use club soda for an even lighter take. Recipe: Love & Lemons

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TROPICAL MINT JULEP

This fusion approach keeps things interesting with tropical ingredients such as Angostura bitters, pineapple, and sugarcane. Mix it up with favorite tropical fruits and create elaborate garnishes for a tasty and slightly Tiki twist on a mint julep. Recipe: She's Cooking

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VIRGIN MINT JULEP

If you're in it for the long haul, it might be a good idea to have a non-alcoholic option that still delivers the flavor and refreshment of a traditional julep. This concoction is easy to whip up and still in the spirit of celebration. Recipe: Just a Pinch