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5 Simple Tips for a Perfect Mint Julep

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three mint juleps in copper julep cups
Classic Mint Julep

Making a great julep is all about the details. With just bourbon, mint, ice and sugar, getting each element to shine makes the balance and experience of the Mint Julep a thing of beauty.  You know I will preface this by saying you should ALWAYS use a bourbon you enjoy drinking in your juleps. I prefer around 100 proof since it will be served over crushed ice.

Tips for a Perfect Mint Julep

Chocolate mint julep in a copper mint julep cup garnished with mint, thin mint cookie and chocolate mint candy
Chocolate Mint Julep

1. Use Crushed Ice (or ice pellets). Do not use regular cubed ice. The mint julep is made to be served over a bed of ice that frosts the outside of the cup and dilutes the bourbon quickly. To crush ice, use a Lewis bag and an ice mallet, or just a rubber mallet with the ice wrapped in a clean bar towel.

It’s even easier to go by a Sonic and buy a bag of nugget ice. Purchasing the actual ice machines for the home is pricey and they take up a lot of space. But as a cocktail geek, I’d get one in a heartbeat if I could.

2. Metal Cups Are Best for Serving. The metal cup frosts over from the combination of the ice and the alcohol in the cocktail. It keeps the drink frosty cold and bracing with each sip. If you don’t think it makes a difference, try a taste test. Make one julep in a glass and the other in a metal cup.

If you’re making Mint Juleps for a party you may not have enough metal julep cups. You can serve in a glass or plastic cup, but the cocktail won’t be as cold to hold and won’t taste as cold when you sip it.

3. Always Spank the Mint. For the best julep, collect a healthy bunch of mint sprigs (not just a single mint sprig), slap them against the back of your hand (or clap them between your palms), and tuck them into the drink. This opens up the aromatics and makes them fragrant with each sip.

4. Put the Straw Right Next to the Mint. You want to smell the mint with each and every sip of the julep. Make sure the end of the straw isn’t that much higher than the tops of the mint sprigs so it tickles the drinker’s nose with each sip.

The paper straw was invented to use with the julep. The julep was always meant to be sipped with a straw to keep ice and mint out of your face, but close enough you feel the coolness from the drink and smell the glory of a fresh mint sprig. If you try to tip back a cocktail full of crushed ice, you’re likely to pour the whole thing out as you get to the end of the cocktail. Use a straw!

5. Use Simple Syrup. Rather than use a sugar cube or a teaspoon of sugar, make some simple syrup (just water and syrup in equal ratios) and use that in the julep. It prevents a mass of undissolved sugar in the bottom of the cup. It’s faster, and you control exactly how much sugar gets into the cocktail. I prefer the ratio of 2 oz of spirit to 1/2 oz of simple syrup in my juleps. 

You’ve Learned My Mint Julep Tips, Now Sip

three mint juleps in copper julep cups
Classic Mint Julep

For more of my tips and tricks for a perfect mint julep, see my article here. But now that you’ve read this article you have all the tips in hand to make an excellent Mint Julep. Whether it’s for a Kentucky Derby party or a summer soiree, the Mint Julep is designed to refresh on a hot summer day. These tips will make you into a Mint Julep pro with each one you serve.

By on April 23rd, 2022
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey and cocktail author (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.

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