Re-discovering the nuances of a classic mint julep cocktail

Old Forester Classic Mint Julep photo by Cristine Struble
Old Forester Classic Mint Julep photo by Cristine Struble /

While the Kentucky Derby might put the classic mint julep cocktail front and center, the simplicity of bourbon, mint and sugar should shine more than just one day a year. Even though the Run for the Roses has everyone sipping one from that cup, the bourbon beverage offers a delightful refreshment that can pair with many foods. Fancy a pour and a nosh?

A mint julep often entices before that first sip. The bright, refreshing mint aroma beckons. Even though the correlation between the Kentucky Derby and the Mint Julep might have started in the early 1980s, the cocktail had been around long before that time. Bourbon, sugar and mint served over crushed ice is refreshing any time of year.

Although the beginning of May puts the cocktail front and center, it is a beverage that crosses seasons. Quite refreshing on a hot day or a little pick me up on a wintry afternoon, the versatility should be appreciated.

Since a classic mint julep is about the bourbon, that spirit is often a way to change the drinking experience. While Woodford Reserve might offer the official version at Churchill Downs, it isn’t the only option in the glass.

Why not take a trip back in time to the first bottled bourbon, Old Forester. From the Bottled in Bond legacy to today’s offerings, a bottle of Old Forester always is a pleasure to enjoy.

For anyone who has not had Old Forester, the bourbon makes the drinker aware at first sip but slowly evolves. A little spicy with a hint of vanilla and orange, the bourbon whisky is impeccable neat as well as incorporated into a cocktail.

When thinking about the classic mint julep, the flavor profile lends itself pairing with the mint. Here’s how to make a classic mint julep with Old Forester.

Mint Julep


  • 2 oz Old Forester 86 proof
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 3 mint sprigs for garnish


  • The Old Forester Mint Julep cocktail recipe is a tradition, from-scratch build of the south’s more infamous warm-weather cocktail
  • Pack mint julep cup with crushed ice. In mixing glass, combine bourbon, syrup, and mint leaves. Lightly bruise mint leaves with a muddler, strain contents into julep cp. Garnish with 3 generous sprigs of mint.

Whether it is a simple mint julep, bourbon and mint over ice, a hibiscus mint julep that highlights floral notes, or a citrus forward lemonade mint julep, the spirit is quite delightful served a variety of ways.

Since a great cocktail is best enjoyed with food, there are plenty of items on the menu for food pairings. From Kentucky-centric foods to simple dishes, those options come to mind. But, another option might be one that surprises both the drinker and the foodie.

Recently Ferrero suggested pairing its Ferrero Golden Gallery Signature Collection with a mint julep. While each candy in the box is quite spectacular, it is the discovery of how the flavors contrast and complement each other.

From the Chocolate Sonetto to the Dark Cupola, consider trying each one with a sip of the cocktail. It is time to put aside the designation of right or wrong. Instead focus on what makes you happy.

While the Kentucky Derby might last just two minutes, re-discovering the classic mint julep is a journey that can last much longer. Ready to take that sip over and over again?