How to Make a Mint Julep – The Brown Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky for Casual Fridays

Happy Friday! It’s the weekend and I am so ready for it. It has been one exhausting week, so I think it’s time for a little Casual Friday.

Casual Fridays can be something fun and simple or they can have just a wee little bit of booze. Today we have all of those things as we head back to The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky to learn how to make the proper Mint Julep!  After all, we have to get some practice in making these cocktails with the Kentucky Derby just around the corner!

I am now a huge fan of this Derby Day classic after learning how to make a good one. The others I have had over the years were medicinal and cloyingly sweet and frankly, gave this little cocktail a bad name. Once you learn how to make it the right way, you will be a fan, too!

Thoroughbred Lounge at The Brown Hotel

It is believed that the first mention of the Mint Julep in print was in London in 1803, where it was described in a book as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” Drinking these in the morning…that must have made for a long day!  Geez…  😉

We do know that the Mint Julep originated in the southern United States, most likely during the eighteenth century. It is said that the U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar in the famous Willard Hotel while he resided in the city during his term as senator.

Rebecca makes a mean Mint Julep!

The Mint Julep has been promoted as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. At least 120,000 of these minty concoctions are sold over a two day period at Churchill Downs. There are also extra special versions of the Mint Julep that are made during the Derby and some of them sell for as much as $1,000. Wouldn’t you rather bet on a horse with that amount of money?  I’m just sayin’…

We asked Rebbeca Dyer, one of the bartenders at The Brown Hotel, to show us how to properly make the Mint Julep. Since she has been a bartender in the City of Louisville for twenty-three years, I bet she knows a think or two about making one of these drinks, don’t ya think?

Here are the Bunkycooks steps to making a perfect Mint Julep:

1. Get out your Derby Day hat and wear it while making your cocktail (unless you are a guy and then you can decide what you do about that). 😉

2. Use a nifty little silver cup if at all possible. It keeps the spirits cold and your cocktail will be perfectly chilled the entire time you sip it, preferably watching the Derby.  We purchased our little silver souvenir cup while we were in Louisville.

3. You need to used crushed ice. The cocktail won’t be the same without that.

4. Steep the mint in the simple syrup when you make the simple syrup. Spearmint is the preferred mint. (Wrap it in cheesecloth so you won’t have to strain the syrup once you remove it.)  Be sure to let the mint sit in the simple syrup for awhile. You should make the simple syrup ahead and let it sit overnight. Forget about the muddling stuff.

5. Use a good bourbon. Since Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, we decided to make ours with that particular bourbon. Bourbons have different tastes, so your Mint Julep may have a slightly different flavor depending on the bourbon you choose.  Woodford Reserve is one of the few rye bourbons.

6. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint so that you get a heady aroma of mint as you bring the cup to your lips to sip!

These drinks can be a bit sweet (unless you use a whole lot of bourbon!), so The Brown Hotel adds a little bit of Club Soda to finish the drink at the end. It’s a nice touch and gives it a bit of fizziness, which I enjoyed.

Make a few of these and a Hot Brown or two, kick back, relax and enjoy your weekend!

* Audio sounds on video are courtesy of The Freesound Project.

Mint Julep

We liked a 50/50 ratio of bourbon to the mint simple syrup. You may prefer a different combination. I suggest that you keep tasting them until you get it right!


crushed ice
2 ounces good bourbon (we like Woodford Reserve)
2 ounces mint simple syrup * (recipe below)
splash club soda, optional
fresh mint springs, for garnish


* For simple syrup - Combine equal amounts of sugar and water and several sprigs of spearmint (tied in cheesecloth) in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts. Cook it a few minutes to get a thicker syrup. Remove from the heat.

Let this mixture steep for awhile. You can taste it and see if it is minty enough for your taste. Remove the mint from the syrup. Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight.

For cocktail:
Place crushed ice in a silver cup, preferably. Pour in bourbon and mint simple syrup. Stir. Add club soda, if desired. Garnish with fresh mint.