Toast the Kentucky Derby With New Twists on the Mint Julep

The mint julep is one of the most beloved cocktails ever created. That’s because of its ties to southern identity and the Kentucky Derby (which is happening this weekend, of course). The drink, comprised of bourbon, ice, water, simple syrup, and mint, is the official drink of the famed horse race and a spring and summer staple in the south.

The main thing to remember is that mint juleps are traditionally served in pewter or silver cups. But, nobody will smirk at you if you serve yours at home in an old-fashioned glass or a Collins glass (not everyone has fancy pewter cups specifically for consumption during an 8 second horse race).

It’s also an easily adaptable cocktail and the official recipe varies based on who prepares it. That’s why it’s the perfect cocktail to change up with a few different ingredients. The exception is that it must at least resemble a traditional Mint Julep and contain bourbon.

Sometimes people think of the cocktail as a stuffy and fancy drink only enjoyed by men wearing three-piece suits and women in over-the-top bonnets. This isn’t always the case. Not all Mint Juleps are overly fancy and pricy. Check out some of the interesting, unique offerings below:


Sallie Gardner

mint julep alternatives

Created by Matt Lofink, Bartender at Cure in New Orleans, Louisiana


1½ parts Maker’s Mark® bourbon

½ part B. Lo Nardini® Amaro liqueur

1 tsp. orgeat syrup

7 mint leaves

1 dash Regan’s® orange bitters

1 lemon swath

1 fresh mint sprig

Put all ingredients except lemon swath into a julep cup, fill halfway with crushed ice, and stir until outside of tin becomes slightly frosted. Express the lemon swath and drop into cup. Top with crushed ice and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.



Nature’s Sweet Restorer

mint julep alternatives

Created by Ryan Casey, Beverage Director at The Dewberry hotel in Charleston, South Carolina


2 parts Maker’s Mark® bourbon

¾ part Strega® liqueur

¼ part Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.® tonic syrup

1/8 part Suze aperitif

1 lemon peel

1 orange peel

7–10 mint leaves

1 tsp. aperitif

Fennel frond


Dehydrated lemon coin

Fennel pollen

Dried roses

Place all ingredients except Maker’s Mark bourbon and orange peel into a julep cup. Muddle to combine. Top with Maker’s Mark bourbon. Fill cup with crushed ice. Express orange peel over drink and discard. Garnish with fennel frond, mint, dehydrated lemon coin, dried roses (optional), and fennel pollen.


The Winner 

mint julep alternatives

Created by 1 Pico in Santa Monica, California


1 ½ oz Jim Beam Bourbon

¾ oz verjus

½ oz peach liqueur and green tea reduction

12 mint leaves


Press 12 mint leaves at the bottom of the glass. Add the above ingredients into a shaker, shake, and pour into a rock glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and a dried peach.


Hightailing Jalisco Julep

mint julep alternatives

Created by Blue Harbour in Tampa, Florida


1 oz Don Julio Reposado Tequila

1 oz Pierre Ferrand dry curacao

.75 oz Organic agave nectar

3 dashes Hellfire Bitters

Pineapple leaves, for garnish

Activated mint sprig, for garnish


Gin Julep

mint julep alternatives

Courtesy of Trey Azar, Seersucker Founder & Master Distiller


2 oz Seersucker Southern Style Gin

0.25 oz of lime juice

0.25 oz of lemon juice

0.5 oz of simple syrup

(5) mint leaves

Mint to garnish

Directions: In julep cup, add Seersucker Gin, lime juice, lemon Juice, 5 mint leaves, and simple syrup or sugar cube. Lightly muddle. Add shaved ice, and then stir. Garnish with mint sprig.