Named the official Kentucky Derby cocktail in 1939, the mint julep has been satisfying Derby revelers for the better half of a century. And though we love the classic staple, we’re always up to taste something new. Here, a few of Chicago’s best mixologists give the traditional recipe a refreshing update.
Deviate from the classic bourbon-centric julep and try one made with brandy. “Juleps were originally made with cognac before they became synonymous with bourbon,” says Patrick Smith, bartender at The Violet Hour. “I've always been a fan of juleps because it's one of the very few drinks that is refreshing as much as it is a boozy sipper. Just like an old fashioned, we take products that we adore (Pierre Ferrand Cognac and Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie) and let them shine. We elevate the flavors just slightly with a little sugar, mint, and huckleberry bitters.” 1520 N. Damen Ave., 773-252-1500
1 1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand 1840 1/2 ounce Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie 1/4 ounce Demerara Syrup
Build in julep glass, add crushed ice, and swizzle. Top with more crushed ice, garnish with mintsSprig, and nine Drops house Huckleberry Bitters.
“This recipe is inspired by Jerry Thomas’ classic 1862 book, The Bar-Tender's Guide,” says Three Dots and a Dash beverage director, Julian Cox. “Here, it uses mint as an aromatic garnish only and not in the actual drink itself.” 435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4220
1 1/2 ounces of Pikesville 110 proof rye whiskey 1/2 ounce of organic evaporated cane sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water) 1/2 ounce of Park Cognac VSOP A dash of Smith & Cross rum Fresh mint for garnish
Fill a julep cup with crushed ice. Add in 1 1/2 ounces of Pikesville 110 proof rye whiskey, 1/2 ounce of organic evaporated cane sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water), and 1/2 ounce of Park Cognac VSOP. Float a liberal dash of Smith & Cross rum on top. Garnish with a bouquet of fresh mint and enjoy!
Mediterranean-Style Julep: Becci Visconti West, house mixologist, Autre Monde
2 ounces bourbon 1/2 ounce mint simple, muddled mint 1/4 ounce Amaro Nonino
Combine two ounces of bourbon, a half ounce of mint simple syrup, muddled mint, and one-fourth ounce of Amaro Nonino (a bittersweet Italian liqueur flavored with mountain herbs) for a slight Mediterranean spin on the tried-and-true classic. 6727 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn, 708-775-8122
Peach Julep: Benjamin Schiller, beverage director, The Sixth
“This cocktail is more refreshing and less sweet than a traditional julep,” says Benjamin Schiller, beverage director for The Sixth. “The peach is a throwback to the early history of the julep.”2200 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-433-5959
3 ounces Old Weller Antique 107 bourbon 2 bar spoons demerara sugar 4 sprigs of mint Peach and lemon-flavored ice
Place two sprigs of mint on the bottom of a julep tin, fill the tin with peach and lemon-flavored ice, add sugar, add bourbon, swizzle, top with more ice, and garnish with the remaining sprigs. To make the flavored ice, flavor water before freezing with peach and lemon simple syrup, then freeze in an ice tray.
Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita: Jaime Salas, tequila expert, Milagro
2 parts Milagro Anejo tequila 1 part fresh lime juice 1 part honey syrup 5 blackberries 6 mint leaves
This sweet and sour cocktail is perfect for both Derby and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Get started by muddling berries and mint. Then add the rest, shake, and strain over ice in a julep glass. Garnish with blackberries and mint sprig.