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Stogie Spirits: The Mint Julep

1 May 2007

Editors note: This is the first article in our new series on adult beverages to enjoy with your cigar. Each Stogie Spirits tip will examine a different cocktail or beverage. For an overview of drinks to enjoy with your cigar, read our Choose Your Booze tip.

May first means not only has spring arrived, but warmer weather is here to stay. And it also means that the Kentucky Derby is just around the corner.

Mint JulepThe Derby is the opening race of the Triple Crown series, and an event with a drink all of its own: the Mint Julep.

The Mint Julep is made with 3 to 5 ounces of bourbon, 1 ounce mint-infused simple syrup (or simply some sugar), fresh mint leaves, and a generous amount of shaved or pulverized ice. According to Wall Street Journal cocktail columnist Eric Felton (now that’s a sweet gig!) the proper Julep is made in the following way:

“Muddle 1⁄2 oz of syrup with mint leaves in bottom of a Julep cup. Rub entire inside of cup with the syrupy leaves. Pack the cup to over the rim with ice. Pour the other half ounce of syrup over the ice, followed by the bourbon. Garnish with a leafy sprig of mint. Drink slowly, that’s a lot of bourbon through a straw.”

An alternative way of making the Julep was described by legendary singer Bob Dylan during his Theme Time Radio Hour show:

“First up, you take four mint sprigs, two and a half ounces of bourbon. I’d put three. A table spoon of powder sugar, and a table spoon of water. You put the mint leaves, powder sugar, and water in a Collins glass. You fill the glass with shaved, or crushed ice, and then add bourbon. Top that off with more ice. And…I’d like to garnish that with a mint sprig. Serve it with a straw. Two or three of those, and anything sounds good.”

No matter how you make this delightful beverage, with all its mint and sugar it might not seem like a perfect match for a cigar. Yet with a plentiful amount of bourbon, the Julep is a great change of pace from the traditional bourbon straight up or on the rocks. If you order a Julep at a bar, it is likely to made with Jim Beam. Early Times is the official bourbon (technically it’s a Kentucky whiskey) of the Kentucky Derby, but I would suggest springing for something better like Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel.

As for your stogie, pair the Julep with a mild- to medium-bodied smoke with just a little spice such as a Fuente Chateau Maduro, Romeo y Julieta Vintage III, or a Toraño Exodus.

For the perfect Mint Julep experience, one should be at the horse track with a sawbuck on your horse to win. There’s nothing better than returning to the betting window with a Julep in one hand and a cigar in your mouth to collect you winnings.

Patrick S

Tags: cigars

9 Responses to “Stogie Spirits: The Mint Julep”

  1. Larry Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 5:31 am #

    First, let me say I enjoy your website very much – I only recently stumbled across it and so far the articles, tips, etc have been interesting and fun! I need to remark on your mint julep article ONLY because, well, I'm a big bourbon fan! You mention that Early Times is the official bourbon of the Kentuck Derby. Actually, that's not true – unless something's changed in the past year, Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon. Not a bad choice, but for my money, I'd prefer ANY of the various vintages from Pappy Van Winkle, Basil Hayden's or the old standby – Maker's Mark. Thanks for letting me go on a kentucky spirits enfused rant!


  2. George E Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:00 am #

    At the Kentucky Derby Web site, there's a page on mint julips ( — with a recipe, of course — and it notes that "The Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail has been 'The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby' for over 18 years."

  3. Patrick S Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 am #


    Thanks for the comment, but I think you are mistaken about Woodford Reserve.

    According to the <a rel="nofollow" href="; rel="nofollow">official Kentucky Derby website Early Times is the official mint julep the Derby, as it has been for "over 18 years."

    Still, you're probably better off drinking Woodford Reserve!

  4. Patrick S Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:02 am #

    Ha! Well said George

  5. Scott Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:54 am #

    To help clear up some of the confusion, at Churchill Downs you can have your Mint Julep prepared with either Early Times or Woodford Reserve (the only two bourbons sold at the Derby).

    Where it gets complicated is that you have to visit one of only a few special stands to get a Mint Julep made with Woodford Reserve (and you'll pay a premium price for it). All the other stands mix theirs with Early Times.

    That said, while I prefer Woodford Reserve…after the first few Juleps, it hardly makes a difference. The Julep looks and tastes pretty…but it's got some serious sting to it. And as it has been pointed out, despite the sweetness it's a great pairing with a cigar. In fact, on Derby Day you're as likely to see as many cigars in the stands as fancy hats. I prefer a Punch Chateau L Double Maduro or a spicy Avo.

  6. Cigar Jack Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    I'm growing some spearmint but unfortunately it isn't big enough to be used it. I was planning on making these and some mojitos.

  7. George E Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 10:27 am #

    For more on mind julips, take a look at

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Stogie Guys Friday Sampler LXX - Friday, November 16, 2007

    […] 1) It was recently announced that Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, will ban smoking in the racetrack’s indoor areas starting November 25. A judge recently found that “Churchill Downs’ exemption from Louisville’s smoking ban violates the Kentucky constitution” meaning you can no longer enjoy a cigar with the traditional Kentucky Derby mint julep. […]

  2. Stogie Spirits: El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum - Saturday, November 29, 2008

    […] Actually, since May Patrick S has owned this series with excellent Stogie Spirits pieces on the mint julep, several Sam Adams varieties, and the elusive Johnnie Walker Blue Label […]