Minty Drink Season

This Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, which marks the official start of “Minty Drink Season.” There are some big players in Minty Drink Season, namely the Mint Julep, the Mojito and the Caipirinha. All of these drinks of course rely heavily on mint, but what mint to use? Mint is actually not one particular plant, but a family of plants. The popular family members are peppermint (Mentha Ã? piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata).

These two main varieties of mints have different mint flavor. Peppermint’s taste comes mostly from the menthol oil in its leaves. Menthol is a mild anesthetic and has been used for years in medicines. It has a more assertive flavor and is often used in savory dishes. Spearmint’s flavor comes from a compound called carvone, which gives it a light, sweet flavor. Spearmint is more often used to add mint flavor to food and cooking.

I just picked up a Kentucky Colonel Mint plant, which happens to be the official mint used in making juleps for the Derby. It is in the spearmint family of mints. Caipirinha and Mjitos are also both made with spearmint, but I can’t find a specific variety of spearmint to use.

The one thing I did note while reading up on mint is that if it is planted in the ground, it can spread like crazy. Plant your spearmint in a pot and it will give you enough mint to make it through a summer of minty drinks.

Mint Julep

From: Washington Post


This variation on Henry Clay’s 19th-century recipe is served at the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel. Bartender Jim Hewes recommends using red-stemmed mint and Maker’s Mark bourbon.

For richer bourbon flavor, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson recommends trying a higher-proof bourbon such as Wild Turkey 101-proof or Wild Turkey Rare Breed (108 proof). Be sure to use crushed ice, and serve this drink extremely cold, with frost on the glass. One variation: Instead of dusting with confectioners’ sugar, add a tiny splash of rum at the end.

You may want to start with a glass that’s spent time chilling in the freezer. And don’t forget to serve this with a straw for sipping.


  • 8 to 10 mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • Sparkling water
  • Crushed ice
  • Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  1. Chill a (tall) Collins glass in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the mint leaves, sugar, 1 ounce of the bourbon and a splash of sparkling water in the chilled glass. Use a spoon or wooden muddler to gently crush (muddle) the mint into the mixture.
  3. Add a handful of crushed ice and stir vigorously. Add the remaining 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon and a splash of sparkling water. Fill the glass to the brim with ice (tightly packed), then use a bar spoon or knife to agitate the mixture (“with relish” according to Jim Hewes) until frost appears on the outside of the glass. Garnish with the mint sprig and lemon twist, and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Insert a straw and serve immediately.

8 thoughts on “Minty Drink Season

  1. Personally, in the winter months, I can’t resist a classic, minty hot chocolate. Peppermint Schnapps and Godiva chocolate liqueur and Ghiradelli cocoa mix make the perfect hot cup. Folgers even makes a chocolate silk coffee that works in place of hot cocoa. Mmmm…

  2. I make a mango mojito that is divine! White rum, pineapple rum, and mango nectar poured over muddled mint, sugar, and lime…topped with a little club soda for fizz and garnished with a mint spring and lime wedge…heaven in a glass!

  3. Mojitos for any March-ish through Oct-ish, and a good coffee with bailey’s and creme de menthe for the chilly months :)
    (That might not count, since it’s fake mint, but seriously- it’s winter in the northern hemisphere and fresh mint would be an oxymoron of sorts.)

  4. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never had a mint julep. So needless to say I can’t wait to put your recipe to good use. Mojitos on the other hand, I’ve had my fair share of, I love them! Cheers to warmer weather and delicious minty drinks!

  5. Hi Gizmar, I am a little jealous! Without a yard I am stuck growing mint in a pot. Sounds like you need to have a Derby Party or Mojito party.

  6. Absolutely love mint anything. I even planted chocolate mint and the mint seems to be taking over the yard. This is a sure fire must try drink.

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