How to Make the *Actual* Mint Julep Served at the Kentucky Derby

The executive chef of Churchill Downs shared his recipe and tips for the perfect derby day cocktail.

mint julep cocktail

Photo: Getty/Michael Marquand

Can't make it to this year's Kentucky Derby? Neither can we. But we were excited to find out we can enjoy the fastest two minutes in sports with the exact mint julep served at Churchill Downs from the comfort of our own homes!

David Danielson, executive chef of Churchill Downs, recently shared his mint julep recipe-served to hundreds of thousands of fans each year-for the Derby, plus his tips for a perfect julep with HuffPost. Danielson's mint julep recipe is quite simple: It calls for pouring 2 ounces of Woodford Reserve bourbon and 1 ounce of mint simple syrup over crushed ice, then garnishing with a sprig of fresh mint.

Yes, it's that easy to watch the Derby in style-even if you're enjoying it on TV! What makes Danielson's mint julep recipe particularly easy to make for a crowd is that instead of muddling mint leaves, he uses a minted simple syrup. You can buy flavored simple syrup but it's easy to make your own-try this Mint Simple Syrup recipe from Southern Living.


Pictured recipe: Classic Mint Juleps

Instead of flavored simple syrup, EatingWell's Classic Mint Julep recipe (pictured above) calls for muddling mint and sugar, which releases the herb's fragrance. The secret here is using superfine sugar because it dissolves almost instantly. You can find superfine sugar in the baking section of most supermarkets, but you can make your own by whirling granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for 1 minute until it is as fine as sand. After you stop the machine, let the sugar settle for a few minutes before removing the lid to avoid a cloud of sugar dust.

While you can use any favorite bourbon to make a mint julep, Danielson specifically prefers Woodford Reserve for its smoothness and caramel flavor. This, he says, is what helps it to blend with the mint and simple syrup. And the crushed ice helps it feel more luxurious.

Danielson advises treating your fresh mint with some major TLC-placing the stems in cold water until ready to use. And finally, a true mint julep is best served in a classic silver cup-but a highball glass is still traditional (and don't worry, it tastes nearly as good in whatever you have on hand).


Pictured recipe: Garden-Fresh Mint Julep

Once you've mastered the classic mint julep, mix things up with our Garden-Fresh Mint Julep, pictured above. It's made with sugar snap peas and pea shoots.

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