The Mint Julep, specifically the Old Forester Mint Julep, is the designated drink of the Kentucky Derby. It has been for nearly a century, and because of this, should be involved in all forms of Derby celebration.

The refreshing combination of ice and mint makes the Mint Julep the ideal beverage to combat a blisteringly humid, Southern day. Therefore, back in the late seventeen hundreds, the upper class Virginians would swap out the poor man’s bourbon for ritzier rum, and sip their cold, minty drink out of silver goblets over breakfast.

Ironically, the rumored origin is much more feral.

As the old wives’ tale states: There once was an rugged, old ruffian who was traveling along the Mississippi River and needed to add water to his bourbon. During his search for drinkable water, he discovered wild mint and decided to add it to his concoction. The experiment was a success and the drink took off among the poorer classes.

Once the mixture was discovered, it was prescribed by doctors all throughout the eighteen hundreds to patients with stomachaches, and was especially beneficial for those who had difficulty swallowing.

Then, in the late 19th century, the Tarascon brothers began shipping and storing their whiskey down to New Orleans in charred barrels, which gave it smoother taste more comparable with cognac. Since New Orleans already fostered quite a bit of French influence, the “French Brandy” tasting whiskey was a huge hit; and the rich could enjoy their Mint Juleps with this new, fancier bourbon.

Although Bourbon may have started out as an easy alcohol for the lower classes, it’s now a huge industry and a cult classic. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail saw nearly two million tourists in the last five years. Bottles of Pappy Van Winkle sell for as high as $3,000.00 apiece. And the Kentucky derby sees almost 120 thousand Old Forester Mint Juleps being sold over the two day period of the Run for Roses.

A Mint Julep made by Josh Curtis at Carbon Beach Club
A Mint Julep made by Josh Curtis at Carbon Beach Club

To make your own Mint Julep this Saturday, we suggest following The Official Kentucky Derby recipe: 


2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Sprigs of fresh mint

Crushed ice

Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon

Silver Julep Cups


Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.