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I’ll say it: Mint Juleps are gross

Whether you’re headed to Churchill Downs today for the Kentucky Derby or just watching with friends, odds are you’ll be offered a mint julep. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to turn that drink down because mint juleps are actually gross.

120,000 mint juleps are expected to be consumed this weekend at Churchill Downs and probably thousands more across the nation. That many people choke down this watered down, disgusting sugar bomb for the sake of tradition when they could save themselves the trouble and just drink bourbon.

Mint julep, how do I loathe you? Let me count the ways.

It’s a pain to make

Unless you have a crop of mint in your backyard (it is surprisingly easy to grow), you’ve gotta go to the store to get some. Then you get to “muddle” it with sugar water, crushing the leaves to release flavor, which people rarely do correctly. Unless the mint is really fresh, the muddling usually results in a bunch of bitter green crap floating around in your drink. From there, you add the bourbon, which you should just pour over ice on its own and enjoy.

It’s always too sugary

Sugary drinks lead to headaches and since sugar is one of the four ingredients in this drink, there’s no escaping it, especially since there’s no citrus/acidity to balance it. A well-made mint julep goes easy on the sugar, but if you’re relying on the store-made mixes, prepare yourself for a sugar high and hangover.

If you want a good bourbon drink that’s sweet, just order an old fashioned.

It becomes a disgusting watered down mess

Nothing is worse than a watered down drink. The copious amount of ice in mint juleps turns them to mint-scented, bourbon water that you don’t really want to drink, but you paid a lot for, so you suffer through it anyways.

No one really likes them

I’ll never forget driving around Nashville to find the specific type of ice (Sonic ice is perfect) required to make mint juleps for my first Derby party. I’ll also never forget how that ice was left to melt as my friends took one sip of the juleps and discreetly abandoned them. Mint juleps suck in large part because no one likes them, meaning the effort you put into serving them is wasted.

You know what people do like? Bourbonade. Here’s my recipe, which has been a crowd favorite for years and could be coming soon to KSBar and Grille:

  • 2 cups unsweetened ice tea
  • 1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
  • 1 12 oz. can of frozen lemonade
  • 1 12 oz. can frozen limeade
  • 1 750 ml bottle of bourbon
  • 7 cups water

Makes one gallon. Nick Roush shared some more Derby cocktail ideas earlier this week:

Derby 101: Cocktails

In closing, if you like mint juleps, have at it, but if you don’t, don’t feel obligated to drink one just because it’s Derby. There are plenty of better options out there.


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

27 Comments for I’ll say it: Mint Juleps are gross

  1. BBN in H-Town
    11:07 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Mint juleps at the derby are gross, but it sounds like you’ve never tasted a proper one outside of that setting. They are surprisingly good when done the right way. Try one at an upscale cocktail bar and get back to me.

    • CatsfaninFL
      11:40 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

      Yah agreed. Anything made with a mix is awful. But a proper one with actual ingredients is surprisingly good compared to it’s cheap mix friend. Not to mention there are a ton of variants out there that add unique perspectives to the julep.

    • nschulte13
      12:11 pm May 6, 2018 Permalink

      Agreed! The premixed mint juleps are terrible. I had it once and it put me off juleps for years until I decided to try to make one for a derby a few years ago. With proper ingredients, they are great.

  2. runningunnin.454
    11:09 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    And, if you make it with tequila, you’ll deserve the king size headache you get.

  3. makeitstop
    11:20 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Mrs. T I am SO disappointed… you might have well as penned a piece: “You Want to See Horses Go Around? Try a Merry-go-round” It’s bordering on unpatriotic. The convergence of Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated in my house w sombreros as hats and proper mint juleps for the Southerners, served in sterling silver julep cups (the flaw in your recipe), crushed ice, mint only crushed w the back of a silver spoon against the sides of the julep cup (easier and less green funk) bourbon poured to just under the surface of the ice where the simple syrup (homemade or William Sonoma makes a good one) is poured over to make unsuspecting guest think “C’mon in, the water’s fine”. The skinny Margie’s will NOT be in julep cups they’re for the heathens who don’t like my mint juleps, which among my neighbors is a null set. We need to talk, Bless your Heart!

    • makeitstop
      11:24 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

      Btw autocorrect doesn’t like julep either, trying to make it Jukebox each time, both useful, but not interchangeable.

    • runningunnin.454
      11:47 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

      Egad, I’ll just have a shot of Wild Turkey 101, please.

    • makeitstop, I’m a teetotaler so I don’t care, but even if I did drink, that recipe sounds WAY too complicated to fool with.

      Your first sentence made me laugh however.

  4. sincitycat
    11:54 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    The perfect mint julep: Take two glasses and put the sugar and mint in the first glass. In the second glass pour the bourbon. Throw out the first glass and drink the second.

  5. KYcats11
    11:56 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    I see the Kentucky traditions are fading away from you since you moved to Nashville…

    • BBNDan7
      12:47 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

      Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean she has to like it lol

    • KYcats11
      9:19 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

      Never said she did, she just acts like everyone doesn’t like them. She has her opinions, I have mine.

  6. Mathlete
    11:56 am May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Mint juleps are a waste of perfectly good bourbon. Mrs T’s bourbonade sounds great, but if you’re insisting on a fancy mixed bourbon cocktail, I suggest an old fashioned or a Manhattan. Both are easier to make them juleps, both taste MUCH better, and they’re also great when it’s not Derby day

  7. Cat68
    12:18 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    I’ll say it, ‘Juleps are NOT gross and I will seek one out not just at the track, but at restaurants where served.’ As if anyone cares. I’ll wait for take on brussel sprouts, sauerkraut, and braunschweiger.

  8. Luether
    12:29 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Mrs TT, I believe that you missed the boat on this post. Mint juleps are actually delicious when properly made…

  9. The Original WTF Guy
    1:40 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Mint Juleps are not gross and only a psuedo hipster living in Nashville would think so. Must be the proximity to that floor cleaner they make in Lynchburg that is clouding her judgement.

    Having said that, the only thng that should be mixed with bourbon is ice and maybe water. An Old Fashioned is an abomination.

    Finally, a recipe is more than the ingredients. It usually also includes the process by which things are created. My wife used to make something similar where you froze the ingredients and when ready to drink put in a glass and added Sprite or 7-Up. It was delicious as I’m sure Mrs. TT’s would be if she only let us know how to make it.

  10. ScratchtheMascot
    2:00 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    1000% agree. They are a pain in the ass to make and are far too sweet, even if made correctly. I love mint in a lot of drinks but I’m just not sold on the mint/bourbon combination. I’ve lived in Lexington my whole life and worked at a bar that made the real thing. Julep cup and all. Disgusting. Just drink an Old-Fashioned.

  11. BigBogee
    2:55 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    They are NASTY at CD!

  12. Truman Claytor
    3:56 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    The Mint Julep….Kentucky’s joke on the rest of the world!

  13. michaelb
    7:26 pm May 5, 2018 Permalink

    Y’all don’t be mean to her just cuz she doesn’t like the drink lol. Why do people consistently read this site to pick at the writers ? I’d hate to feel the way you people do on the inside . Do you guys always comment on stuff you don’t like ? [ No answer required ] {you’ve already answered}

  14. Philthy
    7:53 am May 6, 2018 Permalink

    If you buy a MJ just for the souvenir glass, then go to Kroger and buy one for $2.99 and save yourself the agony of gagging that sugary bourbon water down your throat.

  15. satcheluk
    8:13 am May 6, 2018 Permalink

    Try making your simple from honey. Pulled some mint from our garden yesterday and made simple syrup rom honey and used Bookers bourbon. Damn good drink to have during derby.

  16. nschulte13
    12:10 pm May 6, 2018 Permalink

    I don’t get the hate on Mint Juleps. They are “hard” to make I guess, but not really. If you think it’s to sugary, add less simple syrup. And don’t actually muddle the mint leaves, smack them in the palm of your hand, it releases the oils without breaking up the leaves. And also take a leaf or two, smack it, and rub them around the inside of the cup, to coat it with mint oil. Add bourbon to taste. Once I learned how to make one, I love them. I still prefer my bourbon mixed with only ice, but a mint julep is a nice change of pace occasionally.

  17. UKfanforlife
    1:07 pm May 6, 2018 Permalink

    Nothing wrong with having an opinion. I don’t agree with slamming a tradition because you personally don’t like it. It is off putting to those that are into tradition.

    But, so what. Knocking a Derby tradition is better than pushing a political agenda any day of the week.