Make your Kentucky Derby party extra memorable with this fresh blackberry mint julep! Mixed with freshly muddled mint leaves and a double dose of blackberries, you'll adore the refreshing and fruity spin on this favorite bourbon cocktail. And, of course, don't feel like you just have to save this drink for Derby Day — this classic cocktail is perfect for sipping on the patio all through the spring and summer months.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Extra festive for the Kentucky Derby: The mint julep is the cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, but did you know blackberries are the official fruit of Kentucky? That’s right. The blackberries add an extra touch of Kentucky flair to make this drink even more fun.
Perfect for warm weather: We often associate bourbon as a cozy spirit for fall and winter cocktails, but the mint julep is made for patio weather. The mint and blackberries give this drink such a fresh flavor. Save your favorite old fashioned for the cooler months and sip on this fruity mint julep from now through the summer.
Simple and quick to make: You can whip this drink up in just minutes, and it doesn’t require any fancy mixology skills. Any home bartender can master this recipe.
Bourbon: A proper mint julep calls for Kentucky’s signature elixir, bourbon. Don’t grab just any whiskey. Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace all make solid bourbons, and you can check out this list of best bourbons for mint juleps for more inspiration.
Blackberries: You can use frozen or fresh blackberries. If you decide to use frozen blackberries, make sure they’re thawed first for proper muddling.
Blackberry simple syrup: Although blackberry simple syrup is available for purchase, I highly recommend using a homemade blackberry simple syrup. A homemade syrup is much tastier, more economical and only uses fresh ingredients — no fake extracts here. We just need water, white sugar and blackberries.
Mint sprigs: Make sure you have enough mint to muddle and garnish your drink. It’s just not a mint julep without that fancy garnish. And only fresh mint, please.
Make the Blackberry Syrup
Before mixing our drink, we need to first prepare the blackberry cocktail syrup. Let’s review.
Step 1: We add water, sugar and blackberries to a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil (photo 1). As the mixture heats, we want to stir it periodically. This helps fully dissolve the sugar.
Step 2: Now we turn off the heat and crush the blackberries with a potato masher (photo 2). To infuse even more flavor, we allow the syrup to steep for at least 15 minutes.
Step 3: From here, we strain the blackberry simple syrup over a fine-mesh sieve (photo 3). We discard the solids, and the leftover liquid is our syrup. Easy, huh?
Make the Mint Julep
With our syrup prepared, let’s grab our classic pewter cup and start mixing. Traditional mint juleps are made right in the serving glass, so you don’t need to bust out the cocktail shaker for this one.
Step 1: We start by muddling the blackberries and simple syrup until the blackberries break down. Once the blackberries turn nice and jammy, we add the leaves from a sprig of mint and lightly muddle them a few times (photo 4).
Mint can turn bitter if it’s overworked, so I like to muddle it separately since the berries require a bit more smashing.
Step 2: Now we add the Kentucky bourbon, fill our silver julep cup halfway with crushed ice and stir for about 15-20 seconds (photo 5). You’ll notice condensation build on the outside of the pewter glass. Once the drink is perfectly chilled, we add more crushed ice to fill the cup and use our hands to form a mound of ice on the top.
Step 3: For our final step, we place a mint sprig in the palm of one hand and quickly clap over it with the other hand and place it on the side of our ice mound like so (photo 6). This releases the mint’s fragrance to make for an even more delightful drinking experience.
Now don your big Derby hat or seersucker suit with this blackberry julep in hand and enjoy the Run of the Roses.
Related: For more festive options, check out this guide to Kentucky Derby cocktails.
You may have heard the old saying: All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. To qualify as bourbon, the spirit must be distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn and then aged in new charred oak barrels. With that majority corn makeup and oak barrel aging, bourbon is sweeter than other whiskeys and shows off vanilla and caramel notes.
The metal is great for insulating your drink to keep it icy cold. This allows the crushed ice to melt into your drink for leisurely sipping.
Don’t feel like you can’t enjoy a mint julep if you don’t have one of those iconic silver cups. Instead, you can use a double rocks glass. A highball glass also works.
As long as you keep the syrup in a sterile, airtight container in the refrigerator, it should last for two to three weeks. When it turns cloudy, it’s time to make a new batch.
Variations and Substitutions
Use another fruit: This recipe works perfectly as a mint julep base, and then you can customize it with your favorite fruit, such as blueberries or raspberries.
Double the mint flavor: When making the syrup, throw in a couple extra sprigs of fresh mint to create a blackberry-mint syrup. How refreshing does that sound?
Swap regular syrup for blackberry syrup in a pinch: For the most blackberry flavor, I definitely recommend making the syrup, but you can absolutely substitute plain simple syrup in equal parts if you’re short on time.
Trade the white sugar for another syrup sweetener: White sugar is great because it lets the blackberries shine, but you can use other sweeteners for a different flavor profile. For instance, my peach mint julep uses brown sugar for the syrup. Honey would also work nicely with the berries.
Adjust the sweetener to taste: A classic mint julep uses 2 ounces bourbon and ½ ounce simple syrup. This ratio gives it just a touch of sweetness. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, you can increase the simple syrup to 1 ounce.
Hold the julep cup by the base or top lip: This keeps our body heat from warming up the cup. After all, we’re using a special glass for that frosty drinking experience, so we don’t want to counter that by holding the cup in the wrong place.
Don’t use cubed ice: Mint juleps are specifically made with crushed ice, not cubed ice. They’re designed for the ice to melt as you drink it. We want that rapid dilution. Ice cubes would melt too slowly.
Get your crushed ice from Sonic for parties: For easy entertaining, you can buy a big bag of Sonic’s famous crushed ice for a reasonable price. And who doesn’t love Sonic ice?
Serve with a straw: Not only does a silver metal straw look pretty, but it’s difficult to enjoy a proper mint julep without one because of that mound of ice. I much prefer a metal straw to a paper straw, which can disintegrate quickly in all that melting ice.
Use the handle of a wooden spoon if a cocktail muddler isn't available: While I find a muddler is more efficient, you can certainly mash those berries with a wooden spoon instead. The surface area isn't as large, but it works if need be.
Along with your blackberry julep, you’ll love these smoked pork spare ribs. Pork is a sweeter meat, which makes it great with the bourbon, and you’ll love how the smoked wood flavor complements the oak char. You can serve the ribs with a fruit-based sauce, such as my blueberry BBQ sauce, and you have yourself the ultimate mint julep pairing.
Whether you’re throwing a Kentucky Derby party or just in the mood for a refreshing bourbon cocktail, you’ll love this blackberry mint julep recipe. Grab a seat on the patio and savor every delightful sip.
Get More Kentucky Derby Cocktails
If you love this recipe, please leave a comment with a five-star rating — or simply hit the five-star button in the recipe card. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter, and you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok.
Blackberry Mint Julep
- Julep cup
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Bar spoon
Blackberry Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup blackberries
Blackberry Mint Julep
- ¼ cup blackberries
- ½ ounce blackberry simple syrup
- 8-10 fresh mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Crushed ice not cubed ice
- Fresh mint sprig
Blackberry Simple Syrup
- Combine the white sugar, water and blackberries in a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer and then a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the mixture boils and the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat. Use a potato masher or fork to break down the blackberries. Let the mixture steep for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
- Place a bowl or measuring cup under a fine-mesh sieve or strainer. Strain the blackberries from the liquid and discard the solids. The liquid is your simple syrup. Allow to cool and then store in a sterile, airtight container in the refrigerator.
Blackberry Mint Julep
- Add the blackberries and blackberry simple syrup to the julep cup. Muddle to break down the berries. Once the berries break down, add the mint leaves and lightly muddle a few times. Don't overwork the mint, or it can turn bitter — just a few twists will do.
- Pour in the bourbon and add enough crushed ice to fill the glass halfway. Using a bar spoon, stir until the outside of the julep cup builds condensation, about 15-20 seconds. Completely fill the cup with more ice and use your hands to form a mound on top of the cup.
- Place the mint sprig in the palm of one hand and quickly clap over it with the other hand and place it on the side of the ice mound. This releases the mint’s fragrance to make for an even more delightful drinking experience. Serve with a straw to more easily sip through all the ice. Enjoy!
- The syrup will last two to three weeks if stored properly. When it turns cloudy, it's time for a new batch.
- You can use fresh or frozen blackberries for both the syrup and drink. For the syrup, you don't need to thaw the blackberries, but you'll want to thaw them for the drink.
- For parties, you can buy a big bag of crushed ice from Sonic.
- The standard mint julep recipe uses 2 ounces bourbon and ½ ounce simple syrup, but if you prefer a sweet drink, you can increase the simple syrup to 1 ounce.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.