We’ll keep this Watermelon Mint Julep recipe short and to the point. Once watermelons come into season in mid-May, I use every opportunity to make syrups, cocktails, salads and desserts with them. Because so much of the watermelon is (you guessed it) water, it’s a fabulous, easy-to-manage addition to cocktails.
To start, if you need a primer on the Mint Julep head to my article How to Make A Classic Mint Julep, or if you want to know how to play with variations of the Mint Julep, head here. We’re just a day away from the Kentucky Derby at this point, so all my energy is going toward fun Mint Juleps this week.
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Watermelon Goes with Bourbon?
I’m a bourbon nut, but I don’t think that bourbon goes with everything. Some people might disagree with me, but I absolutely know that watermelon sings with some bourbons. But not ALL bourbons. Choose your bourbon wisely and the bourbon’s caramel and dried fruit notes can turn the cocktail into a refreshing sip for a hot day.
I love this Watermelon Mint Julep with wheated bourbons, and with 85-95 proof bourbons that are lighter-bodied and full of fresh fruit or floral notes. Heavy, oak-forward, tobacco- or leather-prominent whiskies won’t pair well with the freshness of the melon.
For this cocktail, we keep the process very simple. We add watermelon to the cocktail, muddle with simple syrup (or watermelon simple syrup), muddle just a bit of mint, add the bourbon, top with crushed ice, and a healthy sprig of mint.
Muddle Watermelon or Add Simple Syrup?
While you can do either muddled watermelon or add watermelon simple syrup, I opt for both to get the freshest watermelon flavors from the fruit to add in with the bourbon. Adding the watermelon simple creates a great punch of fresh watermelon flavor in the Watermelon Mint Julep. But also adding the muddled watermelon to the julep cup gives you a fantastic post drink, bourbon-soaked treat to fish out of the bottom of the julep cup.
How to Make Watermelon Simple Syrup
Watermelon simple syrups are one of the easiest to make. I put 1 pound of fresh, cubed watermelon in a freezer Ziploc bag, add 1 cup of sugar. Muddle the fruit together with the sugar a bit, and leave it in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours. At that point, I strain the watermelon bits from the syrup and store the wonderfully fragrant watermelon syrup in the fridge for use in cocktails, smoothies, lemonades, and iced teas.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Chocolate Mint Julep
- Peanut Butter Banana Julep
- Strawberry Julep
- Persian Julep
- Blackberry Basil Julep
- Breakfast Julep
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Watermelon Mint Julep
- 2 oz bourbon
- ½ oz watermelon simple syrup** or plain simple syrup
- 3-4 cubes of watermelon
- 5 fresh mint leaves
- Garnish: fresh mint spring and watermelon spear
- Muddle watermelon and simple syrup in a julep cup. Add mint and muddle lightly. Add bourbon, stir a bit and fill with crushed ice. Stir briefly, top with more ice, and garnish with a straw, a healthy sprig of mint, and a watermelon spear.