Celebrate the arrival of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs with a Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Bar! Featuring handcrafted and homemade mint juleps made with mint-infused simple syrup, you can entertain your friends and family in style!
I grew up in Kentucky, so the first Saturday in May is always a special day for me: Derby Bay! I still tune into Churchill Downs to watch the Derby, the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” and I love to entertain with as much fanfare as possible.
That means having mint juleps on hand. For a Derby Party, I’ll even go all out with a Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Bar for my guests. 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!
What Is a Mint Julep
A mint julep is a classic cocktail made from mint, sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice. It’s the official drink for Kentucky Derby, which is why traditionalists use only Kentucky bourbon in their mint juleps.
While there are only four ingredients, there are two different ways to make a mint julep. The classic method and the easy method.
A Classic Mint Julep Recipe
My classic mint julep recipe is great for when you are getting fancy. This version uses granulated sugar and a muddler to muddle and extracts the flavor from the mint leaves. Since it’s a bit more labor intensive, it’s best for when you are making just a few juleps or celebrating with traditionalists. I cover that version in my Classic Mint Julep Cocktail post.
An Easy Mint Julep
An easy mint julep – or rather easier 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 save you a lot of time, but it will save you mess and give you more consistent results julep after julep. Also, you can crush the ice and make the simple syrup in advance. This is the version I use when setting up a mint julep bar.
How To Set Up A Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Bar
Sure, you can mix and pour mint juleps in small batches or even one cocktail at a time, but if you have company, let them get in on the action by setting up a mint julep bar. Wondering how to set up a mint julep bar? You’ll need the ingredients and bar supplies.
Mint Julep Ingredients
- Kentucky bourbon – Now is the time to use the good stuff! A 750 ml bottle will make around 12 cocktails.
- Fresh mint sprigs – For garnish and to make the mint simple syrup. I usually grab 2 bunches. Place the ones for garnish in a glass of water, like a bouquet of flowers, to keep them fresh.
- Mint simple syrup – Requires white sugar and water. See the recipe below.
- Crushed ice – See my tips below for crushing it at home.
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- Mint julep cups – If you don’t have classic silver julep cups, use highball glasses that hold 8-12 ounces.
- Straws – Compostable straws or stir sticks for mixing drinks.
- A Jigger or measuring cup – To measure the bourbon in 2 ounces or ¼ cup measures.
- Measuring spoon – A 2-teaspoon measuring spoon for the simple syrup.
- Ice bucket with scoop or tongs – To keep the ice cold.
How To Make Mint Simple Syrup
At a minimum, start the mint simple syrup an hour ahead of time so that it has time to cool down. If you are planning ahead, make it the day before. For this minty super simple syrup you will need:
- White granulated sugar
- Fresh mint sprigs
Combine the sugar, water, and 3 sprigs of mint in a small saucepan on the stove.
Heat it to a boil over high heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cool the syrup to room temperature. Do it slowly to allow time for the mint to be extracted.
Strain the syrup and discard the solids.
Refrigerate the simple syrup until chilled.
How Much Bourbon Is In A Mint Julep?
A single 750 ml bottle holds approximately 25 ounces of bourbon. This recipe calls for 2 ounces of bourbon per cocktail, so a bottle should make around 12 mint juleps. The recommendation is 1.5 drinks per person. Some people will make them stronger, and some will make them sweeter, some will skip the alcohol to make virgin mint juleps.
How To Make Crushed Ice
Crushed ice is the key to making a great mint julep cocktail, and making crushed ice at home is easy. Food processors and high-powered blenders 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 surfaces like a bag of store-bought ice.
How To Make a Mint Julep Cocktail
This mint julep recipe is easy!
Combine mint simple syrup, bourbon, and ice in a mint julep cup or highball glass.
Briskly stir until the glass is cold and condensation begins to form on the outside.
Top with more crushed ice and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.
Tips For Success
- Have a clean glass of water handy on your mint julep bar to hold the measuring spoon for the simple syrup to keep the area from getting messy and sticky.
- Have an ice bucket with a scoop handy to hold the crushed ice.
- Keep extra crushed ice on hand in the freezer for refills.
- Have enough ice – if you’re serving other drinks, that ice will disappear quickly. Have plenty of crushed ice on hand.
- Don’t underestimate the amount of bourbon you’ll need. 2 ounces per drink at 1.5 drinks per guest per hour is a standard measure. You can always send guests home with leftovers, but you don’t want to run out of bourbon in the middle of your party.
- First-time mint julep makers or those looking for a virgin mint julep cocktail will double or triple the amount of mint simple syrup, so it’s best to double the recipe, so you have enough.
- Post instructions at the bar so your guests know what to do. Don’t forget to tell them to garnish their cocktail with a fresh mint sprig.
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Easy Mint Julep with Mint Simple Syrup
Mint Simple Syrup – Yield 1 1/2 Cups
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 sprigs fresh mint
The Mint Julep
- 2 teaspoons 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.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.