Mint juleps are delicious and fun to drink at parties – especially Kentucky Derby parties! This year create a mint julep cocktail bar featuring easy mint juleps with mint simple syrup. Stock your bar with all the essentials for easy to make mint juleps and let your guests serve themselves. Dust off your Derby hat, whip up a Derby Pie, and pour yourself a Mint Julep. It’s Derby Time!
Growing up in Kentucky, the first Saturday in May will always hold a special place in my heart. The place reserved for The Kentucky Derby, aka the “greatest two minutes in sports.”
It’s the time of year when fans flock to Louisville, KY to join in on the spectacle and Kentucky Derby fans around the country hold parties in their homes.
While my social media feeds fill with pictures of friends dressed up, men in their seersucker suits and ladies in their hats, I tend to celebrate from afar these days. No matter where you choose to watch, I can think of no better way to do it than with a mint julep in my hand and an extravagant derby hat on my head.
Setting Up a Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Bar
When setting up a cocktail bar, as with most party foods, it’s better to overestimate than underestimate the amount you will need. The standard rule of thumb for entertaining is to provide 1.5 drinks per guest per hour. Sound like a lot? Maybe, but the alternative is not enough. You can always send guest home with the leftovers, but it’s harder to send someone for more supplies mid-party.
Bar Set Up Supplies
- Mint julep cups or highball glasses (8oz – 12oz glasses) for each of your guests.
- Mint sprigs placed in a glass of water to keep them fresh.
- Reusable or compostable straws or stir sticks for drink mixing.
- 2 ounce or 1/4 cup measuring cup for the bourbon.
- 2 teaspoon measuring spoon for mint simple syrup in a glass of water (it gives it a place to go and helps minimize the mess).
- Ice bucket with scoop, filled with crushed ice. Keep extra ice in the freeze.
- Mint simple syrup.
- Kentucky bourbon.
Ingredient Quantities for 12 Cocktails
- 1 bottle of bourbon
- 1 1/2 cups mint simple syrup (*see recipe)
- 2 small or 1 large bunch of fresh mint (12 – 24 sprigs).
- 20 cups of crushed ice (more if it’s a hot day).
Are these amounts right for 12 cocktails?
A single 750 ml bottle holds approximately 25 ounces of Kentucky bourbon. Since our recipe calls for 2 ounces or bourbon per cocktail, a bottle should make around 12 mint juleps. Again, the recommendation is 1.5 drinks per person. Some people will make them stronger, some will make them sweeter, some will skip the alcohol all together.
Many first time mint julep drinkers (or non-bourbon drinkers) will double or triple the mint simple syrup. Simple syrup is fairly cheap and easy to make, but it’s better to make it in advance, so I recommend making twice as much as you will need according to the recipe.
Ice melts (shocking huh??), so having extra is always helpful. If using 12 ounce mint julep cups, you will use about 10 – 12 ounces of ice per cocktail. The 20 cup estimate is conservative. If you are serving other drinks that people may want to serve over crushed ice, you may want to double or triple the amount.
Making Crushed Ice at Home
Crushed ice is key to making great mint juleps. If you have a food processor or high powered blender, they make crushing ice a breeze. If you have time and the stress to burn, you can use plastic bags wrapped in kitchen towels and a wooden mallet or muddler to crush your ice. Whatever method you choose, crush it in advance and promptly return it to the freezer. It may solidify a bit, but it should break up again easily, just bang it against the counter or other hard surface like a bag of store bought ice.
What’s a Mint Julep?
A mint julep is a classic cocktail made from mint, sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice. It’s southern tradition made famous by the Kentucky Derby, which is why traditionalists use only Kentucky bourbon in their mint juleps.
While there are only four ingredients, there are two very different ways to make a mint julep. The classic method and the easy method.
Classic Mint Julep
The classic mint julep is great for when you are getting fancy or making just a couple of them. This version uses granulated sugar and a muddler to extract the flavor from the mint leaves. If you want the classic, check out my Classic Mint Julep Cocktail.
An Easy Mint Julep
An easy mint julep is made with mint simple syrup, which turns it from a muddled extraction worthy of a mixologist into a simple pour, stir, and serve cocktail that anyone can make. It may not take less time overall, but you can crush the ice and make the simple syrup in advance. Also, your guests can serve themselves, while making less mess. When it comes to Kentucky Derby parties, this easy mint julep wins hands down.
Recommended Kitchen Tools
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Easy Mint Julep with Mint Simple Syrup
While I do slightly prefer the flavor of a classic mint julep, for years I only made my mint juleps with mint simple syrup. This easy mint julep with mint simple syrup is still my number one choice when hosting a Kentucky Derby party.
Make the mint simple syrup and crush the ice in advance for easy to assemble mint juleps for your Kentucky Derby party. Since a mint julep is mainly ice and should be served ice cold, don’t mix them up until ready to serve.
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Mint Simple Syrup - Yield 1 1/2 Cups
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 sprigs fresh mint
The Mint Julep
- 2 tsp mint simple syrup
- 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
- crushed ice
- sprig of mint
The Mint Simple Syrup
- **The simple syrup needs to be made at least an hour in advance so that it has time to cool.**
- Combine sugar water, and 3 sprigs of mint in a small saucepan.
- Heat to a boil over high heat stirring occasionally. Boil 3 minutes, then cool to room temperature.
- Strain syrup into a plastic squeeze bottle or other sealable container. Discard the mint solids. Refrigerate the simple syrup to cool completely before use - at least 45 minutes.
To Assemble an Easy Mint Julep
- Combine mint simple syrup, bourbon, and ice in a mint julep cup or highball glass.
- Briskly stir until glass is cold and condensation begins to form on the outside.
- Top with more ice and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 8 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 161 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 2mg Carbohydrates: 8g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 8g Protein: 0g