How To Make a Better Mint Julep

These killer Kentucky Derby cocktails take the bourbon-fueled favorite to a whole new level.

Mint Julep Promo
Left: Edmund’s Oast’s Jayce McConnell

For 145 years, the world’s fastest three-year-old horses have lined up on the first Saturday in May to compete in the Kentucky Derby, and the world’s Kentucky-iest adult humans have lined up in seersucker and Fascinators  to slurp Mint Juleps and watch them run. 

In fact, the modern drinking straw itself was actually invented in the late 1800s for the sole purpose of sucking Mint Juleps into one’s face more efficiently (rye grass just wasn’t cutting it).

The classic Mint Julep is as basic as bourbon, mint leaves, simple syrup and crushed ice—you have to crush the ice—and while there’s nothing wrong with tradition, when it comes to the Derby, you get extra style points for mixing it up.

This year, Maker’s Mark commissioned four of the country’s best bartenders to cook up a minty superfecta—a series of next-level, reinvented Juleps that will elevate your cocktail game. 

It’s part of Maker’s #CocktailsForCleanups initiative, a collaboration with United By Blue to remove 75,000 pounds of trash—like plastic straws—from the world’s oceans and waterways in 2019, with events coming up in Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Los Angeles. 

Maker’s takes its water very seriously—every drop used in its distilling process comes from its spring-fed, limestone-filtered lake at Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky, 1,000-acres of sustainably-managed forests and rolling hills that feel more like a sanctuary than a distillery. 

So if you make one of these delicious new cocktails and post it to Instagram with the hashtag above, you’re also saving the planet. 

Just don’t horse around with any plastic straws.

Sparkleberry Mint Julep – Washington, D.C.

Created by Succotash’s Darlin Kulla

Succotash’s Darlin Kulla (Photo: Peter Frank Edwards)
  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • 1 tbsp. blackberry sauce (see recipe below)
  • ¼ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. demerara sugar
  • Pebble ice
  • Splash Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 blackberries
  • Mint sprig

Secret Ingredient: Blackberry Sauce 

To prepare the blackberry sauce, gather 3 pints of blackberries, ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup of maple syrup, and the juice of 2 lemons. Mix all of these ingredients together to form sauce (serves 4).

To prepare the mint julep mixture, muddle the bourbon, blackberry sauce, lemon juice and demerara sugar. Then, swizzle with crushed ice. Add in a splash of champagne and top the mixture with more pebble ice, forming a nice dome shape. Finally, garnish with blackberries and a mint sprig.

Carthusian Julep – Charleston, SC

Created by Edmund’s Oast’s Jayce McConnell

Edmund’s Oast’s Jayce McConnell (Photo: Peter Frank Edwards)
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 6 mint leaves
  • ½ oz. green Chartreuse
  • Pebble ice
  • Mint sprigs
  • Thyme
  • Chartreuse powder (optional)

Secret Ingredient: Chartreuse

Muddle the mint leaves gently with Chartreuse in the bottom of a cup. Then, add the bourbon and fill halfway with pebble ice. Stir these ingredients briefly and then add a metal straw and pack the glass full of pebble ice. To finish, garnish with lots of mint and thyme; dust with Chartreuse powder.

Bless Your Heart – Chicago, IL

Created by the Sportsman’s Club’s Kristina Magro

Sportsman’s Club’s Kristina Magro (Photo: Peter Frank Edwards)
  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • 1 barspoon Bonne Maman blueberry jam
  • 2 large basil leaves
  • Pebble ice
  • 1 large basil sprig
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Secret Ingredient: Blueberry Jam

Muddle the bourbon, blueberry jam, and basil leaves. Top with pebble ice and garnish with basil sprig and a dusting of powdered sugar. For the final touch, add a dash of Angostura bitters on top of the sprig.

The Golden Gait Julep – Houston, TX

Created by Tongue-Cut Sparrow’s Alex Negranza

Tongue-Cut Sparrow’s Alex Negranza (Photo: Peter Frank Edwards)
  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp. Champagne syrup (see recipe below)
  • Pebble ice
  • 2-3 sprays of absinthe (optional)

Secret Ingredient: Champagne Syrup

To prepare the champagne syrup, gather a bottle of champagne and add to a pot to be reduced. Reduce down by 50 percent and add in 3 cups of sugar. This will yield enough syrup to be used in several juleps. Store this syrup in an airtight container in the fridge to keep for later use.

To prepare the mint julep mixture, muddle the bourbon and mint leaves (save a few for garnish). Then, stir in the Champagne syrup and maraschino liqueur. Add in ice and garnish with mint leaves. As a final touch, spray absinthe on top.