Making Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby

On the first Saturday in May, Louisville is besieged with visitors that have come to witness the most prestigious thoroughbred horse race in America. From a birds-eye view, Churchill Downs Race Track becomes a moving flotilla of expressive hats showing a flash of silver cups.

Surrounding a dirt race track are stands full of race enthusiasts, socializing as they wait to see who is going to become the winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown trifecta.

This “Run for the Roses” race is full of traditions that date back to 1875. It has run every year since. Three-year-old papered thoroughbreds gather to race a mile and a quarter for the most exciting two minutes in American sports.

Crowds fill the infield singing “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Foster during the post parade, then toast the winner with the traditional Mint Julep libation. The late afternoon sun sparkles on the specially designed silver Mint Julep cups as race traditions are upheld.

Though the origins of the Mint Julep recipe are a bit hazy, it seems to have become popular in the early 1800s. The original spirit was brandy mixed with sugar, water, and fresh mint. Shortly thereafter, the recipe changed from brandy (due to a shortage) to Kentucky bourbon. Served over ice, this refreshing drink became a standard cocktail and is the official adult drink at the Kentucky Derby.

Mint Julep Recipe

Over the years, variations of the Mint Julep have become popular. The bourbon-based recipe of the Derby remains a favorite.


  • Old Forrester Kentucky Bourbon
  • Simple Syrup Sugar Solution
  • Fresh Spearmint Leaves
  • Shaved Ice

Directions for Simple Syrup

In a saucepan over medium heat, add equal amounts water and sugar. Slowly bring to the beginning of a simmer (just bubbling at the sides of the saucepan) and remove from heat.

The sugar should have dissolved and the liquid should be clear. Crush fresh mint leaves and add to the simple syrup. Chill overnight. One cup of water and one cup of sugar makes about one and a half cup of syrup.

Mint Julep Directions

In the traditional Mint Julep cup, add a shot of simple syrup with the mint mixture and fill with shaved ice. Add the bourbon and mix until the sides of the cup begin to frost. Place a sprig of spearmint on top as a garnish. Hold the cup from the bottom, or the rim, to maintain the frosted sides.

Powdered sugar can serve as a replacement for the simple sugar solution. Just blend it with the water and follow the above directions for mixing the drink.

If you’re looking for a stunning silver Mint Julep cup to call your own, you may want to check out Silver Superstore’s collection, with prices starting as low as $11.95.

Derby Day is very exciting. Parties go on all during the week before the race. The fillies run in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks on May 3, 2019, on the eve of the Derby. This is one of the biggest partying events all year. Rub noses with celebrities and place your bet. Are you ready to join the festivities with your Derby hat and Mint