The Basil Julep puts a summery twist on this classic Kentucky Derby cocktail. Fresh garden basil is a bright, clean addition to the sweet combo of bourbon and sugar, and mounds of crushed ice keep it cold for hot summer days.
Basil Julep Recipe
Break out your big, fancy hats, y’all — the 140th Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, and I have a cocktail for you! The Basil Julep.
The Derby is the first horse race of the season, and the first in the famous trio, the Triple Crown. Twenty 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses and their riders will run a 1.25-mile race at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
The horse whose nose crosses the finish line first will be adorned with a garland of red roses, thus the race’s nickname, a Run for the Roses.
It’s a day chock-full of Southern tradition, right down to the food and the bizarre horse names.
(A friend shared this amazing Kentucky Derby horse name generator. I got ‘Old Feather,’ which is fairly accurate. You’re welcome for that tidbit!)
What to serve with a julep
If you’re not one of the lucky few headed to Millionaire’s Row for the famous two-minute horse race, you can kick back at home with a plate of chocolate bourbon pecan pie, a bourbon cocktail and the race on TV. And perhaps a colorful hat anyway?
In college, I visited Louisville for a conference and that’s when I tried my first mint julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
However, today I’m changing things up a little bit by substituting another fragrant herb: basil.
Check out these Kentucky Derby cocktails.
How to make a Basil Julep
Juleps are traditionally served in 12-ounce pewter or sterling silver cups, called julep cups.
Sugar and mint (or mint) are muddled together at the bottom of the cup and topped with a heaping mound of crushed ice, which helps to create the signature layer of frosty condensation on the outside of the cup.
The basil provides a clean herb flavor to the bourbon, making for a refreshing drink. The basil is also a treat for your olfactory nerves, so if you serve yours with a straw, cut it a bit shorter so your nose will be close to the herb’s summery fragrance.
Don’t forget to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend too! I shared a handful of Cinco de Mayo recipes you should try.
More julep recipes
If you like juleps, let me suggest a couple other options for you, too!
Or mix things up with herbs, like we did here with basil. You could also use chocolate mint, a variety of mint, in this Chocolate Mint Julep.
Enjoy your weekend! And goooo Old Feather! Go!
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- Fresh basil
- Ice crushed
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup or 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 ounces bourbon
- Muddle together to dissolve the sugar and release the oils and aromas of the basil. Gently press the basil leaves up around the edge of the cup to help release more flavor when the alcohol is added.
- Pack the glass tightly with crushed ice.
- Pour bourbon over top. Stir well, until glass becomes frosty. Garnish with basil leaves and a straw (optional). Serve, holding the glass near the rim to preserve the frosty exterior.
- Warm 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and add about 10-12 fresh basil leaves. Let cool completely, then remove the basil. Once cooled, you can use in your cocktail. To store, pour into a glass jar, cover and refrigerate for up to one week.
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