Best Bourbon Mint Julep

The Bourbon Julep was born here at the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel, Washington DC
The Bourbon Julep was born here.

A bottle of Maker’s Mark sits atop the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC — where Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced the Bourbon Julep to these United States. That’s the bourbon of choice for the drink that remains the Round Robin’s signature, and it’s a very good choice for this icy beverage.

Though Henry Clay was born in Ashland, Virginia, the town is is named after his Kentucky estate, and this Virginia-bred drink has been historically tied with Kentucky bourbon and the Kentucky Derby in Louisville.

While Maker’s Mark Bourbon, with its wheated sweet taste remains the popular choice for this drink, there’s another bourbon that we prefer when mixing this cooler for enjoyment on a hot summer afternoon.  Evan Williams 1783 adds a mild and tasty oak flavor, and a lower price.

Mint Julep

2 ½ ounces bourbon

2 teaspoons (1/3 ounce) simple syrup

8 to 10 leaves of spearmint

A neatly-groomed sprig of spearmint, for garnish

A dusting of powdered sugar, for garnish, optional

Lots of crushed, cracked, or powdered ice, or easier yet, Sonic Drive-In pebble ice.

— Add the simple syrup and mint leaves to a mixing glass.  Press lightly on the mint leaves with a muddler.  Add the bourbon, and stir well.

Fill an Old Fashioned glass or silver Julep cup with crushed, cracked, or powdered ice.  Strain the contents of the mixing glass into it.  Add more ice to the top of the julep cup or glass, and make a mound of ice on top of the drink.

Insert a sprig of spearmint into the mound of ice.  Dust the top of the ice and mint with powdered sugar, if you wish.  Cut off the bottom of a straw so that the top of the straw is 1 inch above the rim of the julep cup or glass.  Serve, and as the Southern novelist Walker Percy relates,  “Then settle back in your chair for a half an hour of cumulative bliss”.

To make simple syrup, add equal parts of white sugar and good-tasting water to a jar with a tight lid.  Shake vigorously, rest 5 minutes, shake vigorously again, and rest 5 more minutes.  No need to boil the stuff.

Other Recommended Bourbons

Maker’s Mark and Evan Williams 1793 are standard around our porch, but Old Grand-Dad 100, and Old Forester Signature are also recommended bourbons. Generally speaking, the sweetness of “wheated” bourbons taste best in a Julep.

Don't be fooled by the low price. This bourbon makes a fantastic Julep.
Don’t be fooled by the low price. This bourbon makes a fantastic Julep.


Sonic Drive-In sells bags of ice from their drive-thru windows.  The pebble ice is perfect for Juleps, Daiquiris, and Margaritas. You can also make powdered ice by using a Lewis bag, or putting ice into a clean canvas tote bag and smacking the ice-filled  bag with a wooden  mallet.