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Kentucky Derby Mint Julep: Recipe, instructions, how to make, tradition at Churchill Downs

Take a closer look into New England Copperworks intricate design of the 150th Kentucky Derby trophy.

The Kentucky Derby is a sporting event immersed in tradition and spirit – so what better way to watch the Run for the Roses than with a mint julep, the race’s signature beverage, in hand?

The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1939, although its origins trace back to the first Derby Day in 1875. This iconic bourbon cocktail is still served to Kentucky Derby attendees to this day, typically presented in silver or pewter cups that create a crisp, frosted effect.

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Thousands of guests will be enjoying a mint julep at Churchill Downs on race day as we celebrate 150 years of the Kentucky Derby, but that doesn’t mean that the classic drink can’t be just as good wherever you are.

The 2024 Kentucky Derby takes place this Saturday, May 4, airing on NBC and streaming on Peacock. See below to learn how to make the Derby’s most iconic drink, the mint julep.

How to make a mint julep

Learn how to make your own mint julep courtesy of NBC’s Today Show.


  • Two ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • Soda water
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • Crushed ice
  • One teaspoon sugar


Place mint leaves, sugar and a small measure of bourbon in a glass. Muddle with spoon. Half fill the glass with ice and gently agitate the mixture. Fill with remaining ice, add the rest of bourbon and top off with soda water. Garnish with fresh sprig of mint and a twist of lemon. Gently dust with sugar.

While the cocktail could be considered perfect as is, there’s also plenty of variations to consider. Some favorite options if you’re looking to put a twist on your Derby-day Julep:

Champagne Mint Julep
Picasso Julep Cocktail
Martha Stewart’s Big-Batch Lemon-Mint Julep
Sweet Tea Mint Julep

Why is the mint julep the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby?

History suggests that the mint julep has been associated with the Derby since it’s very first days, back in 1875. With connections back to medicinal usage in Europe in the 1700s, the drink became a staple in the southern United States, made with brandy, cognac, or rum, and ultimately Kentucky bourbon. It became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938.

How many mint juleps are served at the Kentucky Derby ever year?

An estimated 120,000 mint juleps are sold each year at the Derby, with countless more made for home viewing parties around the country. To prepare for this year’s Derby, the culinary team at Churchill Downs is set with 1,000 pounds of mint, and expects to use 24,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep Bourbon Cocktail and 20,000 bottles of Woodford Reserve.

How to watch the 2024 Kentucky Derby:

  • Date: Saturday, May 4
  • Time: Live coverage begins at 2:30 PM ET
  • Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
  • TV Network: NBC
  • Streaming: Peacock,, NBC Sports app

RELATED: Ever Wonder - How much does it cost to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby?

How to watch Horse Racing on Peacock:

NBC Sports is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Royal Ascot, and Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series.

Click here to sign up and follow all of the horse racing action.

When is the 2024 Kentucky Derby?

The 2024 Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday, May 4, with coverage beginning at 2:30 PM ET on NBC and Peacock.

What devices does Peacock support?

You can enjoy Peacock on a variety of devices. View the full list of supported devices here.