Did you know that when mint julep first made its way to the United States, it wasn’t even made with bourbon? Common spirits were brandy, rum, or whatever people had on hand (rye whiskey being the other major player at that point in history).
To honor the classic cocktail’s historical roots in other spirits, we’ve gathered a few mint julep recipes that feature bourbon alternatives (perfect for whatever Kentucky Derby festivities you may be having). Whether you want to experience a julep closer to what the Virginia farmers were drinking before they started their long days of back-breaking labor, or you’re looking for a unique riff, we’ve got you covered.
And, if you do want to make a mint julep with bourbon, check out our recommendations here.
Brandy: Butchertown Julep
- 1.5 oz Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy
- .5 oz Braulio Amaro
- Bar spoon of rich demerara syrup (2-1 ratio)
- 2 bouquets of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
Method: In a julep tin, muddle half of the mint with the demerara syrup. Add crushed ice. Pour Butchertown Brandy and Braulio Amaro over top and stir to incorporate. Top with more crushed ice. Garnish with the remaining mint.
Tequila: Añejo Julep
- 2 oz Patrón Añejo
- .5 oz agave syrup
- 6 mint leaves
Method: In the bottom of a julep cup, muddle the agave syrup and mint leaves. Add crushed ice to fill. Pour Patrón Añejo over the ice and stir lightly to mix all the ingredients. Crown the drink with fresh crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Gin: Hendrick’s Rose Julep
(Created by Erik Andersson, Hendrick’s Gin ambassador)
- 2 parts Hendrick’s Gin
- .25 parts rose syrup*
- 6-8 mint leaves
Method: Place mint into the palm of your hand and clap once. Place spanked mint into the glass and add crushed ice, followed by the liquid ingredients in their corresponding proportions. Using a spoon, gently bring the mint to the top of the glass and push it back down. Repeat this step several times. Top with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
*Rose syrup: Boil dried baby rose buds, 1-2 large orange peels, and 1-2 large lemon peels gently with 1-1 simple syrup to infuse.
Rum: Bacardí Rum Julep
- 2 parts Bacardí Reserva Ocho
- .5 part simple syrup
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 dashes peach bitters
Method: Pour the sugar syrup, bitters, and mint into a mixing glass and use the end of a bar spoon to gently press them together. Add ice cubes, pour in Bacardí Reserva Ocho rum, and give it a good stir. Next, strain into a serving glass with crushed ice using a julep strainer (metal cocktail strainer). Stir again and top up with more crushed ice. Garnish with mint and serve with a napkin wrapped around the glass.
More Brandy: Jersey Julep
(Created at Bank & Bourbon, Philadelphia)
- 1 oz applejack brandy
- 1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
- .5 oz pear syrup*
- 1 dash Benedictine liqueur
- 3 sprigs of mint
Method: Rip off bottom half of mint and briefly muddle in copper mug with pear syrup. Add liquors and fill half of the of mug with crushed ice. Agitate with bar spoon until half melted then fill with ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and lime or sliced pear.
*Pear syrup: To make pear syrup combine equal parts sugar and water and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add 1 sliced pear and let sit for 1 day. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to separate pear from syrup.