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5 min read

Off to the Races! The Perfect Mint Julep Recipe and Food Pairings [VIDEO]

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What comes in sets of four hooves, goes in circles, wears big hats, and has its own special drink? (No, this is not a joke about your awkward relatives.) It’s one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country: the Kentucky Derby!

Since 1875, the Kentucky Derby has fascinated horse racing enthusiasts.

Affectionately known as the "Run for the Roses" and "The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," this iconic event takes place on the first Saturday in May and is commemorated at "Derby Parties" nationwide. Central to these celebrations are some cherished traditions: large hats, fancy attire and the official drink of the Derby, the mighty Mint Julep. While we don’t know much about hats, and maybe know a little bit about fancy attire, we can absolutely discuss this delightful springtime drink.

Almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. That’s a lot of mint and bourbon. This year, the favored bourbon of choice is Woodford Reserve.

An Old Southern Tradition

The drink is clearly a Southern passion, just like fellow Southern food pimento cheese (which you can also pair with a Mint Julep). In a letter written in 1906, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. actually refused to give the recipe to the superintendent of the US Military Academy, calling the cocktail “the nectar of the gods,” and declaring “it is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician, nor a Yankee!” Quite the opinion about a little ole drink recipe! Times have changed but the tradition continues.

What’s in a Name?

Although it’s linked to the South and the Kentucky Derby, the Julep’s name has its roots in the Arab world. The Julep began centuries ago as an Arabic drink called the “julab,” which was made from water and rose petals. As the julab migrated to the Mediterranean, that region's indigenous zesty mint replaced the rose petals.

The Mint Julep has been served in the South since the early 1700s, with Churchill Downs serving them starting in 1875. Mint Juleps became the track's signature libation in 1938, when management began charging 75 cents for the drink and the small glass vessel it came in. Despite some of the $2,000 limited edition Mint Julep packages sold to commemorate the derby, the drink and glass combo now costs about $20 at the event.

We have curated a classic Mint Julep recipe sure to be a crowd-pleaser for your Kentucky Derby gathering dubbed “Uncle Terry’s Perfect Mint Julep.” You don’t even have to watch the race to enjoy this perfect libation, don’t worry we won't judge!

Join the Fun: Uncle Terry's Perfect Mint Julep Recipe

So, what exactly is an Uncle Terry’s Mint Julep? It’s a perfect adult thirst quencher with a Kentucky bourbon base. Should your liquor cabinet lack any of these ingredients, have no fear! Race on over to your local Haskell's (or order online) to stock up on your race-day essentials. 


  • Ice
  • 1.5 ounce Bourbon
  • 1.5 ounce Simple Syrup
  • 1 (4-inch) cocktail straw or coffee stirrer
  • Fresh mint sprig to garnish

How to make one perfect Mint Julep:

  1. Fill glass with crushed ice*
  2. Pour 1.5 ounces of Bourbon Whiskey (Traditional selection: Woodford Reserve)
  3. Add 1.5 ounces of Simple Syrup *
  4. Stir
  5. Garnish with a couple sprigs of mint
  6. Serve

*You can add mint to the simple syrup for more minty flavor or muddle the mint in the glass before you add the ice.

Food Pairings with a Mint Julep

If you’re watching the Kentucky Derby from home, you have plenty of fun food options to pair with your perfect Mint Julep.

For snacking, these Southern staples are hard to beat:

If you’re having a bigger affair, go with some more substantial options so you and your guests can settle in and cheer on the races:

Don’t forget to end with the taste of Southern hospitality wrapped into one dessert:

With that, you will have everything you need for a fantastic party!  If you’re hosting a larger event or would like some additional hands on deck to serve your guests, you’re in luck! Haskell’s offers a variety of event drink services for any occasion. From hand-crafted Mint Juleps, a full-service bar, bulk beer and wine, to bartending and wine tastings, call on our event drink services for your next event!


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