Julep season is upon us! Although I would strongly argue that all year is technically julep season, it is undoubtably the time of year when everyone and their mother decides that they need to bust out the mint and mix up the famous southern sipper. Growing up in Kentucky, the Derby was the Cinderella’s Ball of the annual events. I’d be an absolutely terrible southerner if I didn’t share my favorite mint julep recipe(s) with you all so you can celebrate for yourself. — Find my How to make a Classic Mint Julep and many other JULEP RECIPES at the bottom of this post.
I was a bit surprised after talking with a lot of my friends that weren’t from the area to find out that most of them had never had a mint julep. Like…. ever. It just seemed like sweet tea to me. Everyone has had it at one time or another, right? Turns out… that is a bad example too, as many of the *gasp* northerners had never had that either. Some had never even heard of it. Is this real life?!
The first julep recipe I ever posted was a Sweet Tea Mint Julep. Find it HERE. Please ignore the poor quality of the photos… this was ages ago, y’all. Baby blogger mode!
I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced the full gamut at Churchill Downs. All the way from the infield experience during college (it’s…. something), the boxes, and all the way to the top floor of Millionaire’s Row as a guest of the Kentucky Governor’s Office. Honestly, everything is a blast. Races run all day long, giving you plenty of time between to grab a refill for your Lily or Julep. The Lily, named after the stargazer lily official flower, is the drink of the Oaks. If you aren’t familiar (you can find more here), the Oaks is the race with the fillies on the day before the Derby. Three-year-old thoroughbred fillies (the gals) race a 1 1/8 mile track while everyone sips on the vodka-based cranberry and orange liqueur cocktail. The Saturday Derby is the home of the Julep, with the 3-year-old thoroughbred males running the 1 1/4 mile dirt for the roses. If you ever have the opportunity to visit beaaaautiful Kentucky, do it! Louisville is a wonderful city with so much to explore.
Check out my crawl around Louisville while you’re at it!
If I’m honest, I actually prefer being at the Oaks over the Derby. It’s a bit more relaxed, with just as much excitement. If you want the full pomp and circumstance of the over-the-top outfits, celebrity, and golden people-watching opportunity, the Derby might be your gig, although the Oaks certainly gives it a run for it’s massive amount of money. Both certainly give you the opportunity to dress in your best and lose as much money as you’d like in a matter of seconds. Cheers to that, right?!
Back to what’s important… BOURBON! I think I could probably eliminate every recipe that doesn’t have a healthy pour of bourbon in it from the blog, and still have a pretty full archive. Kentuckians are proud of their liquid gold, and the julep most definitely puts it front and center. A proper julep is definitely heavy on the bourbon, but don’t let it deter you if you aren’t normally the bourbon whiskey kinda guy or gal. Something magical happens when you add a bit of sugar, fresh mint, and lots and lots of ice.
Don’t skimp on the ice, y’all. CRUSH it. Like… even if you have to toss a bunch of freezer tray cubes into a bag and beat the hell out of it, do that. All of that ice really opens up the bourbon and will keep the drink perfectly balanced as you sip. Yes… it’s a sipper kinda drink. From personal experience, you don’t really want to pound these. They’ll sneak up on ya. They are best enjoyed throughout the day with friends, family, and plenty of laughs.
FIND ALL OF OUR JULEP RECIPES HERE!
I’m all worked up and excited for this weekend now, so I’m going to run and make myself a pre-Derby julep (that is DEF a thing). Be sure to check out the Classic Mint Julep first, but then browse some of the twists on the favorite while you’re at it.
I would love to hear about your julep invention ideas in the comments. — Cheers!