[Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 as an entry into the Maker’s Mark “Julep Off” contest for bloggers.]


With the Kentucky Derby coming up on May 6th, it definitely seems like a good time to put together a tasty variation on the classic Mint Julep.

classic bourbon cocktail with sprigs of mint

Photo by Adam Jaime via www.unsplash.com


What is a Mint Julep?

The traditional American Mint Julep is made with bourbon whiskey, aromatic mint, and simple syrup (or granulated sugar with a splash of water), topped with more fresh mint leaves. It’s famously the somewhat-official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and came to prominence in the United States in the late 18th century.

While this cool, refreshing bourbon-based cocktail is spirit-forward, it’s actually a lighter drink than you’d expect– thanks to the simple syrup and crushed ice. The bourbon flavor pairs well with the fresh mint sprigs and simple syrup, and it requires very little prep time.

You might notice that the Derby’s signature drink is typically served in a silver cup known as the Julep cup. But don’t fret if you don’t have one; a rocks glass will do just fine.


Kentucky Derby official cocktail with mint sprigs for garnish

Photo by Ari Agustian www.unsplash.com


Our Mint Julep

This variation isn’t far from the original, because quite frankly, the Julep is a fantastic drink that needs no revision. But since we happened to have a bottle of Fernet Branca Menta on hand, it seemed like a simple way to increase the complexity of the drink while reinforcing its noticeable mint flavor.

In short – this is a classic Mint Julep recipe, but we’ve added a bit of Branca Menta and reduced the simple syrup to compensate. We also pulled down the shot of bourbon from 2 ounces of bourbon to 1 1/2 ounces so the alcohol content isn’t too high with the addition of the Fernet.



Classic Bourbon Cocktail with a Twist

As expected, it’s great! The Branca Menta is both sweet & earthy and adds a botanical, minty backbone to the drink. It’s not overpowering but definitely adds a little more complexity to this ice-cold whiskey drink. I’ll definitely keep the variation of this classic cocktail recipe on my short list!


Ready to try this refreshing Mint Julep recipe with rich bourbon and mint sprigs? Bourbon lovers, this one’s for you!


Mint Julep

Fresh Mint Julep Recipe

This is a slight variation on the traditional Mint Julep cocktail, using a touch of Fernet Branca Menta to kick up the mint and add a herbal flavors.
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Course: Drinks


  • 1 1/2 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Fernet Branca Menta
  • 10 each Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup


  • “Spank” the mint in the palm of your hand and drop it into a Julep cup.
  • Add all other ingredients and fill the cup halfway with crushed ice.
  • Stir for 10-15 seconds.
  • Fill to the top with crushed ice.
  • Stir for 10 more seconds, or until a frost forms on the outside of the cup.
  • Add a sprig of mint for garnish.
  • Optional: Garnish with powdered sugar on top of the crushed ice.
  • Optional: Use a drinking straw in your cocktail glass.