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7 Creative Mint Julep Alternatives for a Boozy Kentucky Derby Weekend

We adore a good mint julep, especially in the warm throes of spring. But mixology is all about, well, mixing it up. So we’ve gathered some great alternative cocktails that are inspired by the classic but incorporate a broader array of ingredients.

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Whether you’re after an Italian spin on a julep or a different fruit flavor to share your ice-cold cup with the ice and whiskey, we have some choice options. We even have a drink named after the winner of the 1894 Tennessee Derby (Jamboree), which was as big as the Kentucky Derby back then. And they come just in time for said equestrian festivities, which you simply cannot take in without a julep of some kind in hand.


This Italian version brings the one-of-a-kind flavor of Fernet to the table, along with some vermouth and a nice hit of citrus from the orange bitters.

kentucky mint julep
Bloomberg Creative Photos/Getty Images
  • .75 oz Fernet-Branca
  • .75 oz Carpano Bitter
  • .75 oz Carpano Classico
  • .75 oz Woodford Reserve
  • 3 drops of Weatherby’s Orange Saffron Bitters

Method: Prepare your julep mug by first rubbing some oils from a few leaves around the bottom and side of the glass. Stir all ingredients and serve over crushed ice in a julep mug with a mint bouquet.

Jamboree Julep

The addition of elderflower and thyme gives the Jamboree a leg up in the julep race. It’s a spring-ready gem you can sip all day.

Jamboree Julep Cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder
  • 1.5 oz Bib & Tucker 6-Year Bourbon
  • .25 oz elderflower liqueur
  • 4 oz soda water
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 6 leaves mint
  • Lemon twist, mint, and thyme sprigs to garnish

Method: Muddle elderflower liqueur, mint, and thyme together in a mixing glass. Add bourbon, stir together briefly, and double strain over ice into a highball glass. Add about 4 ounces of soda water and stir briefly to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist trimmed and wrapped around nice thyme and mint sprigs to garnish. 

Miami Mint Julep

Take the julep from Churchill Downs to South Beach with this tropical take. The addition of passion fruit gives it an almost tiki-like complexion, perfect for afternoon imbibing.

Miami Mint Julep Cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

(Created by Natalia Cardenas)

  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • .5 oz Chinola Passionfruit Liqueur
  • 1 tsp rich (2:1) simple syrup
  • 1 bunch of mint

Method: Add 2 oz bourbon, ½ oz Chinola with a bar spoon of rich (2:1) simple syrup and a healthy bunch of mint leaves (8-10). Fill the julep cup halfway with crushed ice. Swizzle or stir to incorporate the ingredients until the julep cup starts to frost. Add more crushed ice and then garnish with a few edible flowers and a fresh sprig of mint.


Honoring the age-old combo of whiskey and coffee, the Regalia is a harmonious spin on the julep. It features a splash of Borghetti, an Italian coffee liqueur, along with some refreshing mint and some cacao notes from the chocolate bitters.

mint julep crushed ice
Image used with permission by copyright holder
  • 1.5 oz Branca Menta
  • 1 oz Woodford Rye
  • .5 oz Borghetti
  • Bitterman’s Chocolate Bitters

Method: Shake and serve over crushed ice with lemon and mint and a light dusting of cacao.

Grapefruit Julep

Tired of brown spirits? Try vodka with this zesty julep alternative. It brings pomegranate and grapefruit to the fore alongside the smoothness and fruit-friendliness of vodka.

Ketel One Grapefruit Julep Cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder
  • 1.5 oz. Ketel One™ Vodka
  • 0.5 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 0.75 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 0.3 oz pomegranate syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 0.3 oz honey syrup

Method: Combine first five ingredients in a mixing glass before stirring in the honey syrup. Add ice and shake. Strain into a julep cup or Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a large sprig of mint and grapefruit twist.

Spiritless Mint Julep

You can go julep without the booze if you like. This alt-drink captures the essence of the classic without the hooch and hangover.

Spiritless Mint Julep Mocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Method: Measure and combine simple syrup and mint into cup and muddle. Add Kentucky 74, fill with crushed ice and stir. Garnish with mint.

California Julep

The julep likes to travel, this time to the Golden State. It incorporates some very Californian things, like cucumber and a liqueur made out of mint, lemon peel, melon, and aloe vera.

California Julep Cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder
  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon
  • .75 oz Chareau Aloe Liqueur
  • .25 oz honey
  • 6-8 mint leaves muddled
  • 3 slices of cucumber muddled
  • Crushed ice
  • Fresh mint bouquet and cucumber slices for garnish

Method: Add mint leaves and cucumber slices to julep cup and muddle. Add honey, liqueur, and Woodford Reserve with fresh ice and stir until julep cup begins to frost. Top with fresh crushed ice until mound on top and garnish with fresh bouquet of mint and three slices of cucumber.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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