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Best Mint Julep Recipe for Kentucky Derby Party

The Kentucky Derby is one month from today. This year is our derby party year. One thing that stays the same every party is our Mint Julep recipe. It’s tried and true. It’s actually the best.

This year’s Derby will be special – it’s the 150th running of the most famous horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This will be our tenth Kentucky Derby party since 2003. We missed the year that we moved from our previous house to our present. Of course, we missed 2020.

One of the most iconic symbols of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. To celebrate the one-month countdown to the running of the roses, I’m sharing Sweet Shark’s Mint Julep recipe.

I’ll also show you our Pre-Race and Dinner menu – just in case you need some inspiration for your own Kentucky Derby party preparations.

Over the years that we have been hosting our Kentucky Derby party, we have learned that people think they won’t like a Mint Julep – until they try one! We encourage our guests to have just one.

Woodford Reserve bourbon with silver Mint Julep glass for Mint Julep

This mint julep recipe combines the essential mint julep ingredients, but it’s the proportions that make it the best.

Mint Julep Recipe for Kentucky Derby Party

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When our guests arrive, they are treated to a mint julep.

This is a picture of Sweet Shark and me at Kentucky Derby party 2022. We have our Mint Juleps ready to greet our guests.

Do you notice what the Mint Juleps are garnished with?

I make a pint of mint simple syrup a few days ahead for the party.

mint julep

We have six silver mint juleps cups – four that we bought at Paris Market in Savannah and two that I bought at the Lakewood Flea Market in north Georgia. Fortunately, you can order Mint Julep glasses online.

I do have to polish them a couple of times a year. My absolute favorite way to polish them is using these silver wipes. This product makes polishing so easy and fast and no messy paste or cream.

For our guests’ mint juleps, we use styrofoam cups. We bought 1000 cups the first year we hosted the party. I don’t we will ever run out. You can also use plastic Derby cups or these cute cups.

styrofoam Kentucky Derby cup

We make sure that we have plenty of Derby napkins for cocktails and appetizers. Here are some cute ones:

Mint Simple Syrup

One essential ingredient in the Mint Julep recipe is mint simple syrup. I (or Sweet Shark) make a pint of mint simple syrup a few days ahead for the party. It will keep in the refrigerator for weeks and weeks.

mint julep

Mint Simple Syrup

The foundation of a Mint Julep, but can be used for baking and other cocktails.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American


  • medium saucepan
  • 1-cup liquid measuring cup
  • 1-cup dry measuring cup
  • wooden stirring spoon
  • plastic squeeze bottle
  • fine mesh sieve
  • funnel



  • In a medium saucepan, combine the water and the sugar.
  • Over medium heat, bring the water/sugar mixture to a simmer, stirring to dissolve. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  • When the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat.
  • Add the mint sprigs to the simple syrup and stir. Allow the mint to steep in the simple syrup until the mixture is cool.
  • Strain the mint simple syrup through a fine~mesh sieve into a plastic squeeze bottle. Use a funnel to facilitate straining the mixture into the squeeze bottle.
  • Discard the mint. Refrigerate the mint simple syrup until ready to use.
Keyword mint julep ingredient, mint simple syrup, simple syrup
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
mint julep with hat

Kentucky Derby Mint Julep

This is Sweet Shark’s perfect start to a Kentucky Derby Party Day.

A few years ago a friend gave Sweet Shark this special Kentucky Derby bottle. He wrote a message on the back of the bottle.

We now have a bottle for each new year. They are like collector’s items.

Woodford Reserve bourdon for Mint Julep

In preparation for this year’s Kentucky Derby party, we already have our signature bottle of Woodford Reserve’s special Kentucky Derby 150th anniversary bottle.

Woodford Reserve bourbon with silver Mint Julep glass for Mint Julep

For our Kentucky Derby party, Sweet Shark likes to use:

  • Woodford Reserve
  • Jim Beam
  • Maker’s Mark
  • Old Charter

TIP: Mint Juleps are meant to be served over crushed ice. We buy bags of crushed ice at Sonic for about $2.79 a bag. That price has probably gone up, but it’s still the best ice for Mint Juleps.

mint julep

Mint Julep

The iconic beverage of the Kentucky Derby. A simple drink meant for sipping through a straw.
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American
Servings 1 drink


  • tall cocktail glass or mint julep cup
  • ice scoop
  • bartender's small measuring cup
  • straw for drinking


  • 2 ounces Kentucky Bourbon
  • ½ – 1 ounce mint simple syrup
  • ice~cold water
  • mint leaves for garnish
  • crushed ice


  • Fill the serving glass with the crushed ice.
  • Add the bourbon and the mint simple syrup to the glass.
  • Top the glass with about 1 ounce of the ice~cold water.
  • Add a few fresh mint leaves for garnish. Serve with a straw.


For multiple drinks, keep the ice~cold water in a pretty pitcher.
Large quantities can be made ahead by combining the bourbon and the simple syrup.
Keyword mint julep, mint julep recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Kentucky Derby Pre-Race Menu

After our guests are served their mint juleps, they can enjoy one of these pre-race goodies.

Sweet Shark’s smoked salmon is famous among our friends and family. The pimento cheese recipe is my favorite version from Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis’s The Gift of Southern Cooking. It’s one of my very favorite Southern cookbooks and I highly recommend it. I set the pre-race snacks on our large kitchen island.

  • Sweet Shark’s Smoked Salmon with Dipping Sauce and Toast Points
  • Southern Pimento Cheese Recipe*
  • Assorted Crackers
  • Fruit Tray
  • Derby Trash

I have 5 tables set for our guests to enjoy dinner after the race – one in the dining room, one in the breakfast room, and three outside on the patio. We just pray it doesn’t rain!

We have enough of the official Kentucky Derby glasses to use for “water”. This glass is from 2001 when Sweet Shark and I attended the Derby. I think it’s one of the prettiest.

Kentucky Derby glass with red roses

Kentucky Derby Post-Race Dinner Menu

This is our dinner menu. It’s tested and approved by our guests. I set all the food on pretty china and silver platters on our island and serve buffet style.

Be sure to check out the recipes for Shannon’s Mother’s Cornbread Salad and the Raspberry Chocolate Mousse Tartlets. Both recipes are amazing.

mint julep

Don’t forget to PIN this post so you have the menu and the recipes. When your ready to make your Mint Julep Recipe, you can print the recipe.

pin for later graphic in blue

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  1. Having a Derby Party for the first time, can you please share your Derby Trash recipe. Your party sounds great, and I have taken several ideas from the post. Thanks.

    1. Hi there and thanks so much for reading Bluesky at Home. I’m so excited that you are having a Derby party this year. I am actually in Kansas City – been year since Wednesday for a conference but I’m flying home today and Sweet Shark says he made the mint simple syrup yesterday and he’s chilling our Derby cups.

      The Derby Trash is simply the mix that you can buy with Chex, miniature pretzels and nuts. I sprinkle some cayenne or paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice over and lightly toss. You can table and add a little kosher salt too. Even a little Tabasco is nice. Hope that helps and have a great time.

  2. What fun! I’ve never been to a Derby Party but yours looks fabulous! SO perfectly Southern:) Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm! xo Kathleen | Our Hopeful Home

    1. Kathleen, our party is one that all our friends look forward to every year. Food and friends always go together and the Derby is a wonderful reason to gather.