Skip to main content

How to Make a Stand-Up Mint Julep

mint julep
Bhofack2/Getty Images

It’s easy to associate the Mint Julep with horse racing and a bygone era of porch sipping, somewhere in the south. And while those are legitimate thoughts, it limits a classic cocktail to certain occasions (such as the running of the Kentucky Derby) or particular geographic coordinates. Well, this refreshing drink ought to do more than just that, especially in the heat of season when the cooling powers of ice and mint are all the more welcome.

Per our theme of chatting up industry pros on classic cocktail wisdom, we reached out to somebody in the know. Steve Fette is a Craft Spirit Development Specialist at Allied Beverage Group, which is based in New Jersey. He says a proper Julep should be strong, ice cold, tout minty aromatics, and be just a touch sweet. “No citrus, no shaking,” he said. “Just spirit, sugar, mint, and ice.”

The mint is easy to overlook, but it’s a critical component of the cocktail. “Quality  and quantity are paramount for any julep,” Fette says. “Choose big, bright, ‘happy’ mint leaves. Avoid brown or decaying leaves.” How many? Probably more than one would think. “A standard Julep takes about 15 decent-sized leaves,” he says. “Be sure to save a few happy stems to garnish with.”

One major mistake people often make involves over-muddling and thus destroying the aromatic potential of the drink. “People tend to think of muddling as a way to release any anger or aggression by pulverizing whatever is in the cup,” Fette says. “When treating mint in this fashion the leaves break, releasing bitter flavors into the cup. Instead, try to lightly tap the leaves with a muddler so you are just bruising the leaves without shredding. You will be able to smell the difference instantly.”

Kentucky Derby/Facebook

A decidedly icy drink, the nature of the frozen water is quite important, too. Fette says crushed ice is the way to go, as it chills and dilutes the Julep faster than other types of ice. Plus, it’s just plain fun to work with. “Crushed ice adds an aesthetic touch that can resemble an adult snow-cone,” he said.

What about serving it up once it’s made? Fette said the preferred vessel is the silver-plated cup, made iconic by the Kentucky Derby, but there are other routes one can take. “There are less expensive stainless steel and copper plated versions available as well.,” he adds. “At the end of the day, one only needs a rocks or highball glass with a volume of at least 10 ounces.”

Try the classic recipe (below) to experience the purest form of the Mint Julep. For something a little more experimental, try Fette’s pear adaptation as well.

Classic Mint Julep Recipe

kentucky mint julep
Bloomberg Creative Photos/Getty Images

It’s a simple drink all about balance and freshness. And if you like mint, go all-in, as it’s nearly impossible to overdo it. Focus more and that balance of bourbon to simple syrup and adjust according to your palate, or perhaps the type of spirit used (rye whiskey, for example, might ask for a bit more as it tends to be more spicy and peppery).



Muddle the mint in the glass to express the essential oils. Add bourbon, simple syrup, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more mint.

Pear Julepdusse cognac julep cocktail

(Created by Steve Fette, Allied Beverage)

We all know about apple’s affinity for brandy and whiskey but a pear is a great candidate too. Here, it plays off a pair of brown spirits and complements the molasses notes of the demerara sugar nicely


  • 1 ounces Baller Single Malt Whiskey
  • 1 ounces B&E American Whiskey
  • .5 ounces St. George Pear Brandy
  • .25 ounces St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
  • .5 ounces demerara syrup
  • 12-16 mint leaves


Add mint leaves and syrup to a Julep cup and lightly muddle. Add spirits. Fill halfway with crushed ice. Swizzle or stir until cup is ice cold. Top with additional crushed ice and form a dome on top. Garnish with a bountiful bouquet of mint, a spiced poached pear slice, and brandied cherry. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Editors' Recommendations

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
How to perfect the Penicillin cocktail, according to an expert
A modern classic, this cocktail will help you feel better in more ways than one
penicillin cocktail recipe alcoholic scotch


From Carthusian monks distilling herbal elixirs to frontier doctors employing whiskey as an anesthetic, alcohol has always had close ties to medicine. Modern invalids will still ask their bartender for a hot toddy when they're feeling down, and plenty of people swear by the curative properties of their favorite cocktail. Even your cough syrup has a little hooch in it. But whether you’re after a remedy for what ails you or just a cure for the common cocktail, the Penicillin is good medicine. 

Read more
Theses are the 9 best whiskies under $25 to enjoy in 2023
You can get some quality whiskey without breaking the bank. Here are the brands to look out for and stock your home bar with.
whiskey shot cheers

Whisky is a galaxy full of delicious landing spits and still undiscovered frontiers. Sure, you can shell out an arm and a leg for the stuff, especially if you're a collector or hunting for a rare release. But there's much to enjoy on the bottom shelf too, in the sub-$25 per bottle department.

The best budget whiskey brands are attractive not only because they don't put a huge dent in our bank accounts, but they cover the entire spectrum of the stuff. Turns out, you can get some decent rye, bourbon, Canadian whisky, and more for $25 or less. These are excellent options for home consumption and do well enough to be enjoyed both neat or in something like a Manhattan.

Read more
You should know how to make these 5 sauces
Mastering these sauces will make you look like a pro in the kitchen
il principe lasagna bolognese recipe bechamel sauce over getty images

A good sauce is a core component of culinary culture. Knowing how to make a handful of them can elevate your kitchen game to unforeseen heights. Often, a good sauce is the star of the show. After all, what would Thanksgiving turkey be without gravy? Or Eggs Benedict without hollandaise?

Now, we don't expect you to pull a Béarnaise sauce out of your hat at a moment's notice. But you should be able to whip up a solid tomato-based sauce for pasta, or a good teriyaki sauce for rice and veggies or skewered proteins. We know, there are great pre-made options out there, from complex fish sauce to throw-it-on-anything Japanese Barbecue Sauce. Yet, you know as well as we do that when you pull it off from scratch, it's more rewarding and can even taste better.

Read more