How To Make A Mint Julep At Home In 5 Simple Steps, Just In Time For The Kentucky Derby

The 141st Kentucky Derby is May 2, and whether you're living it up in Louisville or planning some light viewing festivities at home (hand raising girl emoji), you know that the most important parts of this old-timey event are definitely the crazy hats, ridiculous horse names, and cocktails. And if you're committed to keeping your celebration on point, that cocktail will be a mint julep. The chances are good that even if you've had the opportunity to try a mint julep, you probably haven't made one yourself. But this year's Derby is the time to change that — and you're just a few quick steps away from building the perfect DIY mint julep.

I guess the Kentucky Derby is technically a sporting event, but if you're reading this I'm pretty sure that our priorities are similar, and not tied too closely to horse racing. The Derby is pretty much an excuse for a mini theme party (with horses) and therefore impossible to turn down, no matter how athletically or equestrian-ly inclined you are. Mint juleps are equal parts refreshing, classy, and traditional — and once you see how simple they are to make yourself (and how great they taste), you might just make them a regular on your summer menu.

What You'll Need (Per Drink)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce minted simple syrup (recipe to follow — ideally made one day ahead, but simple syrup and extra mint leaves would be fine on short notice)
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint, washed and dried
  • 2 cups crushed ice
  • Optional: powdered sugar

Equipment:

  • Chilled mint julep cups (like these) — keep them in the freezer for at least one hour before mixing your drinks. Of course julep cups aren't absolutely essential, but they do bring the drink to maximum effect, and keep the crushed ice cold much longer. And they're so pretty!
  • Muddler (a wooden spoon would also work in a pinch)
  • Straws

Minted Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint, washed and patted dry

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and melt together on medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Place fresh mint sprigs in a jar or container with at least a 2-cup capacity. Once sugar mixture has cooled for a few minutes, pour it over your mint sprigs, seal your container, and let chill 24 hours (or overnight). Remove mint sprigs and re-seal until ready to use.

Any extra minted simple syrup will keep for at least a week, and makes a great sweetener for iced tea or mojitos.

Build Your Juleps

1. Place a few mint leaves and one ounce minted simple syrup in the bottom of your chilled julep cup.

2. Muddle mint leaves and simple syrup.

3. Pack crushed ice gently over the simple syrup mixture with your hands until full.

4. Pour two ounces bourbon over your crushed ice, garnish with fresh mint sprig (and optional sprinkling of powdered sugar), and watch your glass frost over.

5. Add a straw and serve immediately .

Ta-da! Now enjoy your fancy bourbon snow cone in a very silly hat.

Image: Bittermelon/ Flickr; Jenna Wexler