It's Derby weekend and the weather is warming up, so it's officially julep season in Kentucky. Even though I'm offered one almost every year, I don't typically enjoy mint juleps. I find that they dilute the flavors & textures I love most about bourbon, leaving a watery, slightly sweet drink in which the subtle burn of the alcohol is all that remains of the bourbon.
Last year, in search of a mint julep alternative, I stumbled upon the Brown Derby cocktail. I loved how the grapefruit and honey syrup complemented the bourbon, and it has since become a warm weather favorite. This year, I thought why not try a Mint Julep inspired by the Brown Derby cocktail? Be warned: If you're a julep traditionalist, this might not be the recipe for you.
For this recipe, I recommend using a ~100 proof bourbon. I used Old Forester 100 proof; the sweet fruit and spice notes in the bourbon worked really nicely with the citrus, honey, and mint. The other ingredients are where this drink starts drifting a bit from traditional julep recipes. I used grapefruit juice as well as 2 dashes of Angostura bitters as part of this recipe. The bitters is optional, it's tasty with or without it, but I like how it ties the flavors in the drink together as a whole.
An important element to this recipe, and any julep, is the crushed ice. If your fridge at home doesn't make crushed ice, you can use the bag and hammer method, or you can throw some ice in a blender. Another tip we picked up from this Bourbon Review article is to get some ice to-go from Sonic. This route comes with a small fee (less than $1 per cup), but it's perfect if you don't want to make too much of a mess.
Finally, julep cups are not critical, but they do help keep this drink frosty without becoming watered down. If you plan on making juleps every year, it's worth investing in a nice set. If you don't have a julep cup on hand, you can use a Collin's glass or an official Derby glass, but be prepared for your ice to melt faster.
It's Derby Day Mint Julep
Makes 1 drink
- 2 oz. bourbon (we used Old Forester 100 for ours)
- 1/2 oz. honey syrup (recipe below)
- 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
- Lemon peel
- Mint leaves
- Angostura bitters (optional)
- Mint Sprig
- Crushed ice
1 Add the honey syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon peel, and mint leaves to an empty julep cup and muddle
2 Fill the julep cup 2/3 of the way with crushed ice
3 Add the bourbon and the bitters and stir
4 Fill with more crushed ice until you create a mound at the top of the glass
5 Express the mint sprig by tapping it along the entire rim of the julep cup, then place the sprig in the cup as garnish
6 Wait 5 minutes, then serve (recommended)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup water
Note: You can use any measurement of honey and water for this syrup recipe as long as they're in equal parts; 1/4 cup of each if you want a lower yield, 1 cup of each if you want a higher yield, etc.
1 Add the honey and water to a pot and put on medium heat
2 Stir occasionally to dissolve the honey until the water comes to a boil
3 Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a sealed container for up to one week
Did you make this recipe? Let us know!