It's Kentucky Derby time—and that means mint julep! The mint julep provides a fine springboard for cocktail experimentation, so we asked a handful of the area's best bartenders to share their favorite recipes to inspire readers to get creative with their own libations come race day.
Scorned by Cielo
2 oz Cielo Four Roses 9 year & 1 month bourbon
.25 oz simple syrup
.5 oz dry orange curaçao
10 mint leaves
This julep variation from Cielo GM Cory Cuff includes the restaurant's private stock Four Roses bourbon. Gently muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup and the curaçao in a julep cup or rocks glass. Add bourbon and crushed ice, and stir until the outside of the glass is frosted. Cuff garnishes his creation with mint sprigs and some dehydrated Amaro Ramazotti (a bitter Italian digestif) for a decidedly modern touch.
Mint Julep by Cafe Napoli
2 oz Angel's Envy bourbon
Touch of simple syrup
3 mint leaves, crushed
Bartender Han Trean of Cafe Napoli adheres closely to the traditional julep model of whiskey, mint and sugar. He prefers to use Angel's Envy bourbon because of its notes of soft spice, fruit and maple sweetness. He also uses mint he grows in his home garden for the freshest possible flavor. Muddle the mint and simple syrup gently in a julep cup or large rocks glass. Add the bourbon and crushed ice, and stir until the glass is frosted. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Mint Julep by Planter's House
1.5 oz Old Fitzgerald bourbon
.25 oz Turbinado simple syrup
.25 oz creme de peche liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters
4 to 6 mint leaves
Ted Kilgore of Planter's House bases his julep on high-proof bonded bourbon, then adds a combo of dark Turbinado sugar and creme de peche (a peach liqueur) for sweetness. Gently muddle the mint leaves, along with the simple syrup, creme de peche and bitters in a julep cup or large rocks glass. Add bourbon, fill halfway with crushed ice and stir until the glass frosts over. Fill the rest of the way with crushed ice, forming a dome on top. Garnish with mint sprigs.
Mint Julep by The Good Pie
2.5 oz cognac
.5 oz creme de peche
.5 oz rich gomme syrup (2 parts gomme to 1 part water)
10 to 15 mint leaves
Before it became known as a bourbon drink, juleps often were made with brandy. For his julep, Jeffrey Moll, bar manager at The Good Pie, prefers a VSOP or XO cognac like Massion Surrenne or Camus. He also likes to include a touch of peach, a nod to the variation of the drink known as the Georgia Mint Julep. He also prefers gomme syrup for a smoother texture. Muddle the mint and syrup in a julep cup, add the cognac and creme de peche, fill with ice; and, as Moll says, "Stir until you're tired." Garnish with a generous amount of mint.
Bajan Bridgetown Julep by Taha'a Twisted Tiki
2 oz. peach wood-smoked Plantation 5 Year Rum
.25 oz. honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part water)
.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
5 mint leaves
Rum also was a common base for juleps before the ascendance of bourbon. Instead of adding a peach liqueur or brandy to his julep, Joshua Johnson, bar manager at Taha'a, goes one step further by infusing the rum with peach wood smoke. In a julep cup or rocks glass, lightly muddle the mint and syrup. Add the rum and pack tightly with crushed ice. Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside. Top with more crushed ice to form an ice dome. Garnish with a few drops of Angostura bitters on top, if desired, and a mint sprig.