On the Rocks: The Mint Julep

A mint julep is made with just four ingredients: Water, sugar, mint, and bourbon. Because of the way the mint leaves are bruised or muddled, releasing their oils into the mixture, you can think of a mint julep almost as a sort of mojito, with a little less Cuban ayeayeaye and a heckuva lot more slow Southern drawl. Drink enough of them, and you’ll probably wake up on someone’s porch with a white handlebar mustache, wearing a seersucker suit, and wondering what happened to the last fifty years of your life. Or at least, you’ll probably get to miss going to the horse race. Win/win.

Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow to cool completely, then serve your mint julep in a silver cup (or a regular ol’ rocks glass) over shaved ice with plenty of mint. Allow the outside of the glass to frost over, and sip with pinky extended, eyes closed in the warm Spring sunshine.

Mint Julep
Makes one cocktail


  • 2 healthy sprigs fresh mint
  • 3/4 ounces simple syrup
  • 2-1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
  • Shaved ice


Gently bruise mint with a pestle or the back of a spoon. Add to glass, along with simple syrup and bourbon. Strain into second glass, filled with crushed or shaved ice. Stir well, and garnish with more fresh mint.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.

1 Comment

  1. I’m *actually* a 5th generation Kentuckyan who moved to Maine when I was a kid, which is, you know, a fun combination. My fathers’ family has been a fixture in Bourbon County for quite a long time, and my parents now spend the winters near Lexington, and the summers on Southport Island, my childhood home. I grew up with a mint julep a bit different, and I still make it that way today–no muddling, but rather the mint is added to the simple syrup, then mixed with water & bourbon and poured over shaved ice. A subtle difference, but the flavor and texture I’m quite used to. And unlike Derby Pie, diehard Kentuckyans aren’t as strict about the makeup–you can pretty much do what you like with the principle ingredients as long as it is refreshing !

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