The Kentucky Derby Mint Julep: How To Make (Alcoholic And Virgin) The Drink Yourself, Plus Some History

Unless you're drinking just the three main ingredients - in a silver cup, no less! - it's not a "true" mint julep.

here's how to make a mint julep
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Unless you're drinking just the three main ingredients - in a silver cup, no less! - it's not a "true" mint julep.

Kentucky Derby Day is here! And if you’re unable to make it to Churchill Downs in Louisville to enjoy a Mint Julep, the Inquisitr is here to help you out. Here you will find a little bit of history about the iconic drink, plus how to make both the adult version and the virgin version.

What’s With This Weird Drink, And What’s It Got To Do With Horse Racing?

The drink is believed to have originated in Virginia, according to a 2014 report in The Atlantic, before making its way to Kentucky, where it was favored by farmers and ranchers. The combination of ice, mint, bourbon, and syrup made for a cool, delicious jolt – perfect for those days working in the hot sun.

For reasons not entirely clear, the drink became as much a symbol of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby as Oysters Rockefeller is a symbol of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Since 1938, the Mint Julep has been the “Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby,” and over 120,000 of them are served each year.

That’s Great, So How Do I Make My Own?

Well, a couple of points. First of all, when it comes to fine dining (or in this case, fine mixology), ceremony, presentation, and visual appeal are as much about the final product as the product itself. In other words, unless it’s served to you in a pewter cup or, in the case of Churchill Downs, a silver cup (a visually-appealing layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup), made with only proper ingredients, and using only the proper tools used properly, it’s not a “true” Mint Julep.

here's how to make a mint julep
  Watcharapong Sermwichitch / Shutterstock

Anyway, here is the official recipe, from Churchill Downs itself.

The Old Forester Mint Julep Recipe

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Old Forester Straight Bourbon Whisky
Silver Julep Cups

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Old Forester Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Again, that’s just the “official” version, and if you haven’t noticed, a certain distiller is obviously a sponsor of Churchill Downs. Use whatever bourbon you like. And you’re unlikely to have a silver or pewter cup in your home, so just use a glass.

A Virgin Version

If you have guests under 21 who want to get in on the festivities, there’s no reason you can’t still enjoy a Mint Julep. While Louisville mixologists may consider a virgin Mint Julep a crime against booze, not everybody can imbibe. So here, now, courtesy of Disneyland and the Disney Food Blog, is as good a virgin Mint Julep recipe as you’re going to find anywhere.

NOTE: This recipe is for about a gallon or so of the stuff, so keep that in mind.

1 cup sugar
3 tsp lime juice concentrate
3 cups club soda
6 Tbsp creme de menthe syrup (not liqueur)
6 oz thawed lemonade concentrate
mint leaves
pineapple slices
maraschino cherries
bamboo skewers

Dissolve sugar into club soda. Add lime juice and lemonade and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add creme de menthe. Chill. Garnish with mint leaves and skewered pineapple slices and maraschino cherries.

The Kentucky Derby will be run Saturday at 6:46 p.m. Eastern Time.