Easy mint julep upgrades that have you feeling its Southern charm

(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Garden & Gun)
(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Garden & Gun) /

Ahead of this year’s Kentucky Derby, these easy mint julep upgrades are a must try.

With the Run for the Roses moved later in the year, these easy mint julep upgrades could become September’s must have beverage. Although the mint julep became the official Kentucky Derby cocktail in 1983, this cocktail can be dated back centuries. While this classic cocktail is always in fashion, it can get a little update along the way.

For those unfamiliar, a mint julep is basically bourbon, simple syrup, crushed ice and, of course, mint. The cocktail was introduced to the U.S. by Henry Clay. The Kentucky senator enjoyed it at the Robin Round Bar in Washington, DC.

Over the years, the mint julep sees a spike in conversation around Kentucky Derby Day. As the ladies don their stunning hats, the classic cocktail is in everyone’s hands. Sipping from that iconic straw, the flavors are sweet, refreshing and perfectly bourbon forward.

While the original (or official) Kentucky Derby Mint Julep recipe is always a delicious choice, some easy mint julep upgrades would revitalize that classic cocktail. Or, for others, these twists could be a way to introduce them to the bourbon forward cocktail in a new way.

Here are a few easy mint julep upgrades to try for this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Mint Julep Spritzer


  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • ½ oz. Simple Syrup (or Woodford Reserve Mint Simple Syrup)
  • Prosecco (or Soda Water)
  • 8-10 Mint Leaves


  • Muddle mint and syrup in the bottom of glass
  • Add your 2oz of Woodford Reserve bourbon and fill the glass with ice
  • Top with bubble and use a spoon to lift and stir all ingredients until chilled
  • Garnish with a large sprig of mint

During the warmer months, spritzers are always a refreshing choice. This option is a delightful choice.

This upgraded mint julep is perfectly bubbly. Whether you use a little floater of prosecco or some sparkling water, the bubbles make this cocktail perfectly refreshing. Sometimes, bubbles are the easiest way to add some sparkle to any cocktail.

One of the biggest beverage trends has been the sober-curious movement. Just because you want to skip the liquor, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a version of the mint julep.

Mock Mint Julep


  • 2 oz. Unsweetened Tea
  • 1 bar spoon Woodford Reserve Mint Simple Syrup
  • Mint for garnish


  • Pour over crushed ice
  • Garnish with fresh sprig of mint

Even without the bourbon, this mocktail is perfect for the Kentucky Derby. Serve it in one of the signature cups with a straw and sip away.

If you prefer a sweeter way to enjoy that classic mint julep, consider a dessert cocktail. This version channels the always popular ice cream float.

Mint Julep Ice Cream Float


  • 2 scoops Vanilla or Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • ¾ oz. Mint Honey Syrup (or Woodford Reserve Mint Simple Syrup)
  • 1 ½ oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • Q Kola
  • Dark Chocolate for garnish


  • Scoop ice cream in tall glass
  • Pour syrup and bourbon over ice cream
  • Top with Q Kola
  • Garnished with a paper straw, large sprig of fresh mint and grated dark chocolate

The mint chocolate chip ice cream is a nice choice, but it will need a spoon. If you prefer to just sip from a straw, opt for the vanilla ice cream.

Sometimes a dessert cocktail brings out the kid in everyone. Yes, cocktails are meant to be fun.

If you cannot resist rosé all day, then this version of a mint julep will be a perfect choice. From the vibrant color to the bright flavors, this mint julep is a must try.

Rosé Cider Julep


  • 4-5 oz. Angry Orchard Rosé Cider
  • ½ oz. Old Forester Bourbon
  • ½ oz. Créme de Cassis
  • ½ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 6-8 Mint Leaves


  • Muddle mint in the bottom of a julep tin
  • Add the rest of ingredients and then fill julep tin with crushed ice
  • Garnish with a lavish mint bouquet
  • This mint julep upgrade is a little fruiter, sweeter than a traditional version. It could be a step toward enjoying a traditional version. Sometimes starting small can be a great entry.

Lastly, if you are a beer lover, this mint julep recipe is a great choice. The combination of beer and bourbon is quite tasty.

Blue Moon Julep


  • 6 oz. Blue Moon® Belgian White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale
  • 1 ½ oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • ¼ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • ¼ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 4 Muddles Raspberries
  • Mint Sprig and Fresh Raspberries for garnish


  • Muddle raspberries with bourbon, lime juices and simple syrup in julep glass
  • Fill glass with ice
  • Short shake and strain into Collins glass over ice
  • Top with Blue Moon® Belgian White and stir gently
  • Add mint and raspberry garnish

The combination of the fruit flavors and the bourbon is quite refreshing. It is refreshing and less mint forward than a traditional mint julep. If you prefer a slightly sweeter cocktail, this version is a must try.

Whether you try these easy mint julep upgrades or a traditional mint julep, do not this year’s Kentucky Derby pass without a sip.

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What is your favorite cocktail? Do you try twists on a classic cocktail?