These Easy Pitcher Mint Juleps Are Always a Hit at My Derby Party (2024)

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Meghan Splawn

Meghan Splawn

Meghan was the Food Editor for Kitchn's Skills content. She's a master of everyday baking, family cooking, and harnessing good light. Meghan approaches food with an eye towards budgeting — both time and money — and having fun. Meghan has a baking and pastry degree, and spent the first 10 years of her career as part of Alton Brown's culinary team. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.


Jan Valdez

Jan Valdez

updated Apr 26, 2024


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These Easy Pitcher Mint Juleps Are Always a Hit at My Derby Party (1)

Makes12 co*cktails

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These Easy Pitcher Mint Juleps Are Always a Hit at My Derby Party (2)

Do you love a mint julep as much as I do? This classic co*cktail always seems to have the right amount of minty sweetness, just enough fizz, and a strong bourbon flavor. It’s a near-perfect sip on a hot porch in summertime.

Kentuckians in particular have strong opinions about what should and should not go into a julep cup. Most would agree that a classic julep should start with mint muddled with a bit of sugar. Crushed ice is key, and the bourbon and soda water should be added last, with just a stir to mix.

The only trouble is, mixing individual juleps is cumbersome when you’re hosting more than four guests. That’s where mint juleps by the pitcher comes in.

Quick Overview

Tips for Making the Best Mint Julep Pitcher

When it comes to a make-ahead pitcher co*cktail, we need to take a few shortcuts.

  • Make a mint simple syrup. This lets us bypass the muddling business and get right to the bourbon.
  • Pre-mix the simple syrup and the bourbon together. Mix them in the pitcher and chill until it’s time to add ice, fresh mint, and the soda water just before serving.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Pitcher co*cktails are a host’s BFF, allowing guests to help themselves after the first welcoming pour.
  • Mint simple syrup adds a helpful make-ahead element for the busy home cook.

Key Ingredients in a Mint Julep Pitcher

  • Granulated sugar: For the simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar to water.
  • Fresh mint leaves: You’ll need 3 bunches of fresh mint leaves.
  • Bourbon: Use a Kentucky bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace.
  • Sparkling water or club soda: The mint julep cups are topped with a splash of chilled sparkling water or club soda right before serving.

How to Make a Mint Julep Pitcher

  1. Make mint simple syrup. Make a simple syrup, then submerge the mint leaves in it. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, infuse for 1 hour, and strain.
  2. Muddle the mint and mix the co*cktail. Muddle the remaining mint with a wooden spoon in the bottom of a pitcher, then stir in the bourbon and mint simple syrup.
  3. Crush the ice. Wrap ice cubes in a clean tea towel. Pound with a rolling pin or meat mallet to crush the ice.
  4. Serve. Scoop some crushed ice into individual glasses, pour in the bourbon and mint syrup mixture, then top with a splash of sparkling water.

Tips for Making the Best Mint Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a one-to-one mix of sugar to water that dissolves more readily in a co*cktail than granulated sugar. Some bartenders make a rich simple syrup of one part water to two parts sugar, but we’re sticking with the classic ratio for our pitcher co*cktail.

Infusing simple syrup with mint is easy, but there are a few mistakes to avoid for the best mint simple syrup.

  • Don’t chop or tear the mint leaves. Tightly pack a cup of whole, fresh mint leaves, and then add these to the finished, but still warm, simple syrup. Cut, torn, or muddled leaves will make the syrup taste grassy, rather than fresh.
  • Don’t boil the mint leaves. That’s right — you can’t throw all the syrup ingredients together and bring them to a boil. Keep the mint flavor fresh by putting the leaves into the syrup off the heat, covering, and infusing for one hour.
  • Don’t leave the mint leaves in the syrup too long. Not only will the mint turn black if left in the syrup too long, but it will also discolor it. Remove the mint leaves after an hour and before storing the syrup.

The Easiest Way to Crush Ice for Mint Juleps

Ice is actually a key ingredient in a very good julep. It melts a bit as the drink sits, mellowing the bourbon and adding to its refreshing quality. Crushed ice chills the drink and then melts at just the right rate for sipping.

To crush ice, wrap a few cups of ice cubes in a clean kitchen towel — one with low pile like linen or cotton is best — and then beat with a mallet or rolling pin. The ice will shatter into uneven pieces, and that’s a good thing for juleps. Move the crushed ice to a zip-top bag for long-term storage or an ice bucket for serving.

How to Serve Your Mint Julep Pitcher

There are two ways to serve this pitcher mint julep.

  • Fill a pitcher with whole ice cubes, the mint syrup, bourbon, and some fresh mint; pour this chilled mixture into individual glasses filled with crushed ice; and top with soda water. This is ideal if you need to quickly build a dozen glasses to bring out to the party, but it shouldn’t sit with the ice cubes in it for more than an hour or the pitcher will become watered down.
  • Create a do-it-yourself mint julep station with a small carafe of simple syrup and pitchers of bourbon and soda water, from which guests can build their own juleps. This is ideal for long, leisurely affairs like a Kentucky Derby party.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • Make ahead: The bourbon and mint syrup mixture can be mixed up to 1 day in advance. Mint leaves remain green after muddling for 4 hours, so muddle just before guests arrive.
  • Storage: Refrigerate mint simple syrup for up to 1 week. Remove muddled mint from the bourbon and mint syrup mixture and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Mint Julep Pitcher Recipe

Makes 12 co*cktails

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup


  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3 bunches

    fresh mint leaves, divided

  • 30 ounces

    Kentucky bourbon (such as Buffalo Trace)

  • Ice

  • 1 liter

    sparkling water or club soda, preferably chilled

  • Powdered sugar (optional)


Show Images

  1. Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Submerge 1 cup tightly packed mint leaves in the liquid. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and infuse for 1 hour. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean, lidded jar. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

  2. Drop 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves into the bottom of a pitcher. Muddle using a wooden spoon to release the mint's essential oils by pressing down and slightly twisting your utensil. The mint should appear bruised but not torn or blackened. Stir in 30 ounces bourbon and mint simple syrup.

  3. Wrap ice cubes in a clean tea towel. Pound with a rolling pin or meat mallet to crush the ice.

  4. Scoop enough ice into individual julep cups or Old Fashioned glasses until they are very full. Pour in 3 ounces of the bourbon and mint syrup mixture. Top with a splash of sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a dusting of powdered sugar, if desired

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The bourbon and mint syrup mixture can be mixed up to 1 day in advance. Mint leaves remain green after muddling for 4 hours, so muddle just before guests arrive.

Storage: Refrigerate mint simple syrup for up to 1 week. Remove muddled mint from the bourbon and mint syrup mixture and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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These Easy Pitcher Mint Juleps Are Always a Hit at My Derby Party (2024)


Why is the mint julep the drink of the Kentucky Derby? ›

How the mint julep became the namesake derby drink? "The first written mention of a julep cup being awarded as a horse racing trophy [was] in 1816. That is proof that juleps were both highly prized and associated with horse racing," Morris said.

How many mint juleps are consumed at the Kentucky Derby? ›

How many mint juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby ever year? An estimated 120,000 mint juleps are sold each year at the Derby, with countless more made for home viewing parties around the country.

What was the original mint julep? ›

The earliest ancestor of the Mint Julep was merely rum, water, and sugar. Mint wasn't added for quite some time, but it was later found to aid in helping the rum go easy on the stomach when mixed together.

What's the average cost of a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby? ›

The specialties — a Mint Julep, Oaks Lily, Spire or Margarita — are all $22. For any co*cktail, you're going to pay at least $18. Premium beers and seltzers are $14, and just a dollar less for domestics. Bartenders at the track said the special drinks were $18 last year, so they are $5 more than last year.

What is the most popular drink at the Kentucky Derby? ›

Considered the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep co*cktail is a beverage made using sugar, bourbon, and mint leaves.

What is the drink at the Kentucky Derby 2024? ›

Three drinks: mint juleps, Oaks Lilys and Woodford Spires are everywhere at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby Week.

Why are mint juleps so expensive? ›

The price tag is thanks to the silver vehicle in which the co*cktail is served. (You can raise the stakes by purchasing the gold-plated $2,500 “Commonwealth” cup as well).

What alcohol is in mint julep? ›

Bourbon whiskey is the traditional spirit; however, it's not unusual to find recipes that call for rye or Scotch whiskey. Jazz it up with different types of mint like peppermint, chocolate mint, apple mint or lemon mint. Add some bubbles with a splash of club soda.

What state is famous for mint juleps? ›

By 1820, the julep was a legacy in Virginia and had been adopted as an item of local identity. The first acknowledged master of mint juleps was Jasper Crouch from Richmond, who identified himself as a Free Person of Color.

What is the $5000 drink at the Kentucky Derby? ›

Kentucky Derby 150 $5,000 mint julep at Churchill Downs

Every year, Woodford Reserve presents a limited number of special mint juleps handmade at the track and delivered in a rare silver or gold cup. This year, a limited number of $5,000 gold versions are still available.

What is the $1000 Mint Julep? ›

Every year, Woodford Reserve releases a $1000 and a $5000 Mint Julep to support a charity. The $1000 Mint Julep comes in a commemorative sterling silver cup and the $5000 Mint Julep comes in a commemorative gold cup. This year's cups were designed by From The Vault Jewelers.

What was the most expensive drink at the Kentucky Derby? ›

$2,500 mint julep Kentucky Derby

But if that price tag isn't enough, there has also been the option to purchase drinks for $2,500. The difference is that those drinks are plated in gold. There were just 18 of those made.

What is the official drink of the Derby? ›

Originally a morning drink, the Mint Julep is now the traditional and official beverage of the Kentucky Derby. In its first appearance at the Derby in 1938, each co*cktail was served for just 75 cents each. Churchill Downs will mix over 120,000 mint juleps over a typical Kentucky Derby weekend.

Why crushed ice in mint julep? ›

For best results crushed ice is essential to a julep, or at least cracked ice cubes. The smaller cubes melt quicker providing some much needed extra dilution. The Mint Julep is one boozy co*cktail, yet it goes down dangerously easily. Crushed ice helps to lengthen the drink and it softens it's blow.

What is the difference between mint julep and whiskey smash? ›

Nowadays, most modern bartenders muddle the mint in both Juleps and Smashes, so the real difference when it comes to the Smash is the addition of citrus or other fruit, which is either muddled (or, yes, smashed) along with the mint to release all the juices and oils.

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