Mint Juleps: Traditional and twists to sip for Derby Day and beyond

2023 Mint Julep from Woodford Reserve, photo provided by Woodford Reserve
2023 Mint Julep from Woodford Reserve, photo provided by Woodford Reserve /

While the Run for the Roses is a tradition and the actual race might only last a few minutes, the reality is that the celebration is Derby Day. Although no one is saying that the first drink of the day is a cocktail, the libations are often flowing through the day and night. Mint Juleps are often the signature sipper, but the traditional recipe is only one option in the glass. Check out these traditional and twists to the Derby’s favorite cocktail.

Woodford Reserve is the bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. Although a few people will enjoy that $1,000 charity cocktail, others will be sipping the traditional cocktail. For those people not as fortunate to be on the grounds of Churchill Downs, the key to a better Mint Julep is the crushed ice. As that ice slowly melts, it brings the balance to the flavor. Even though fresh mint is a must, it is the ice that needs extra consideration.

Here is how to make the classic Woodford Reserve Bourbon Mint Julep


  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • ½ oz Woodford Reserve Mint Julep Cocktail Syrup
  • 3 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Crushed Ice


  • Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside a julep cup or a rocks glass. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more crushed ice, a sprig of fresh mint, and dust with powdered sugar.
2023 Mint Julep from Woodford Reserve
2023 Mint Julep from Woodford Reserve, photo provided by Woodford Reserve /

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Secretariat winning the Kentucky Derby. As part of Woodford’s charity program, the specialty cocktail benefits the Secretariat Foundation. For those unable to enjoy one at Churchill Downs, here’s how to make the specialty cocktail.

Secretariat’s Mint Julep


  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. chestnut liqueur
  • 1 sprig of mint, for garnish
  • 1 stalk of Virginia bluebells, for garnish


  • Mix, then pour over a julep cup filled with crushed ice. Garnish with one sprig of mint and one stalk of Virginia bluebells.
Crown Julep
Crown Julep, photo provided by Old Forester /

While the Kentucky Derby is the first race in the Triple Crown, this year’s event coincides with the Coronation of King Charles. With this cocktail from Old Forester, it brings a little English tradition to the celebration.

Here’s how to make the Crown Julep.


  • .75 oz Earl Grey Infused Simple Syrup*
  • 2 oz. Old Forester® 86 Proof
  • 1 oz. Pimm’s
  • 4-5 Mint Leaves, plus bunch for garnish*
  • To create syrup, use a 1:1 ratio of demerara sugar to Earl Grey tea brew.


  • Add the Earl Grey syrup and mint leaves to a Julep cup and gently muddle together. Add a heaping scoop of crushed ice to the cup, followed by 2 oz. Old Forester & 1 oz. Pimm’s. Gently stir and then garnish with a bunch of fresh mint.

Although the British might like their tea, coffee cocktails are still having a moment. Beyond the Espresso Martini, that coffee flavor can be infused into other options. In this Kahlua Mint Julep, the combination of Kahlua, Jameson, and Mint is quite refreshing.

Kahlua Mint Julep


  • 1 Part Kahlúa
  • 1.5 Parts Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 Sprig Mint Leaf


  • Add some mint leaves and Kahlúa coffee liqueur into a mug or glass. Lightly muddle them together. Add the whiskey and crushed ice. Give it a stir until it’s chilled. Add a dome of ice on top. Garnish with a mint sprig.

If rum is a preferred spirit, Diplomático Rum’s Winning Julep is a lovely choice. The slight spice paired with the vanilla makes this rum quite enticing. Contrasted with the brightness of the mint, this cocktail races to the front of the pack.

Winning Julep


  • 2 oz Mantuano
  • 0.5 oz sugar cane syrup
  • Crushed ice
  • 6 mint leaves


  • Add fresh mint directly to a tall glass.
  • Softly muddle and incorporate all ingredients.
  • Top off with ice and soda.
  • Garnish with fresh mint.
Woodford Spire
Woodford Spire, photo provided by Woodford Reserve /

While the Mint Julep is the star cocktail of the event, Woodford has another option for those who prefer a little tart in their glass. The Woodford Reserve Spire has become a favorite on Derby Day. Here how to make that cocktail and a mocktail version.

Woodford Reserve Spire


  • 1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 2 oz. Lemonade
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Juice


  • Add ingredients to mixing glass and stir. Pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Woodford Reserve Spire Mocktail


  • 2 oz. Lemonade
  • 2 oz. Unsweetened Iced Tea
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Juice


  • Add ingredients to mixing glass and stir. Pour over ice, Garnish with a lemon twist.

Do you enjoy Mint Juleps on Derby Day? What other mint forward cocktails do you enjoy?