Festive Twists on the Mint Julep in Derby City

As the official beverage of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep has been the traditional cocktail of choice at Churchill Downs for nearly a century. Every year, about 120,000 mint juleps are served at the track on Oaks and Derby days. However, many more are served at bars, restaurants and Derby parties across Louisville. Expert mixologists take this opportunity to craft creative twists on the traditional recipe. From the ultimate agave julep at the Brown Hotel to a mint julep lemonade at Doc Crow’s, here’s a roundup of where to find festive takes on this favorite Kentucky Derby cocktail.

A Julep in The Afternoon at Decca

Tucked in the basement of NuLu restaurant Decca, 812 E. Market St., you’ll find the cellar lounge – an underground cocktail and music haven that uses fresh-squeezed juices, house-made syrups and local ingredients to create a variety of seasonal cocktails, including “a julep in the afternoon.” The cocktail combines smoky muddled mint leaves soaked in Copper & Kings absinthe with Copper & Kings Craft Brandy and mint syrup and is garnished with a flaming mint sprig.

Mint Julep Lemonade and Near Eastern Julep at Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar

As the home to nearly 300 whiskeys and bourbons, Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar, 127 W. Main St., offers a few variations on the local classic. Let their expert bar staff mix you a mint julep lemonade, which adds a splash of tangy and refreshing lemon to the traditional simple syrup, bourbon and mint recipe. Or, try a Near Eastern julep which uses basil instead of mint and ginger syrup, combined with Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond and Becherovka liqueur to add a warm, spicy clove flavor. 

Peach & Basil Mint Julep at 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen

As the only rooftop bar in the city, 8UP, 350 W. Chestnut St., is a spacious outdoor and indoor all-glass drinking and eating experience that offers the best in unparalleled views. Guests can select from an array of libations, including more than 60 bourbons and craft and classic cocktails like the peach & basil mint julep. This Southern riff on a Derby classic includes Old Forester Signature bourbon and macerated peach-infused basil demerara syrup for a sweet and refreshing beverage.

Flight of Mint Juleps at Red Herring

At cocktail lounge Red Herring, 1757 Frankfort Ave., bartender Clay Livingston is honoring the mint julep’s past, present and future with a flight of three mint julep variations: traditional, non-traditional and modern twist. Livingston carefully perfected the recipes of the cocktails to reconnect julep connoisseurs with the beverage’s best form. The traditional includes mint-soaked brandy, rum and sugar, strained mint and a lemon zest. Bacon fat-infused bourbon, mint and vanilla sugar round out the non-traditional, and the modern twist features Branca Menta, Templeton Rye and Carpano Antica.

The Decadent and The Depraved juleps at the Bristol Bar & Grille

There’s a tale or two of Hunter S. Thompson’s visits to the Bristol Bar & Grille’s Highlands location, 1321 Bardstown Rd., and the bar is raising a glass to him and his seminal Derby article with two riffs on the mint julep. The decadent cocktail is made with Old Forester, muddled mint and cocoa-infused simple syrup. The depraved is made with Old Forester, muddled mint, ruby red grapefruit juice, simple syrup and soda water. VT

For Your Derby Parties

For a sip-worthy cocktail rich with Kentucky history, give the Jubil8 from Kentucky’s favorite Ale-8-One a try!


Makes: 1 cocktail

2 teaspoons Ale-8 simple syrup (recipe to the right)

6 to 8 mint leaves

Crushed ice

1 ½ ounces bourbon


Gently muddle simple syrup and mint leaves in a silver julep cup. Fill cup with crushed ice. Add bourbon and fill cup with Ale-8-One. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Ale-8-One Simple Syrup

½ cup water

½ cup Ale-8-One

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons minced ginger

Add water, Ale-8, sugar and minced ginger to a stovetop pot. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes until desired consistency is reached. For the Ultimate Julep Experience

Visit Louisville’s historic Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway, lobby bar and try the ultra-premium agave julep. Created this year in celebration of the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo occurring on the same day and priced at $1,500, this cocktail highlights two world-renowned spirits, Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2 and Old Rip Van Winkle 25-year-old bourbon, served in a custom gold-plated julep cup. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Kentucky Humane Society’s Equine C.A.R.E. program.

A very limited amount of agave juleps are available for purchase May 3 through May 6. The hotel’s 1920s-era lobby bar is a popular spot for Derby visitors – showcasing a fresh display of roses, live piano music, comfy couches and more than 100 carefully selected bourbons including rare and highly-sought-after bottles.

Content provided by Estes Public Relations.