One of my favorite cocktails out there is the mint julep. Famous for being sipped during the Kentucky Derby each year at Churchill Downs, the cocktail—traditionally made with mint, sugar, bourbon, and crushed ice—can actually be adjusted slightly for a unique spin on the classic drink.

“The beauty of the Mint Julep is its simplicity,” says Tony Abou-Ganim, a Master Mixologist based in Las Vegas. “It offers a timeless template, a blank canvas as it were. The Mint Julep beckons the artistry of bartenders to give it their own interpretations, while not straying too far from its cherished roots.”

Town Branch Distillery, the first distillery to open up in Lexington. KY since prohibition, just launched a new bartender campaign around the drink to salute the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby this year.

The distillery collaborated with 13 of the best bartenders in the U.S to create new interpretations of the classic drink that pay homage to their hometown or other inspiration.

Even better, we’ve got the recipes for the whole lineup along with a personal statement on each from their bartender creators explaining their inspiration:

Recipe #1: Texas Julep

by Brett Esler, Idle Hands/Armadillo Den (Austin, Texas)

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2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.5 oz Black-Peach Tea Syrup*

6-8 mint leaves

Inspiration:

“Just outside of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country, you’ll often see ‘World Famous Peach’ stands peppered everywhere in the sweltering summer heat. And if you’ve ever pulled over to the side of the road to indulge, it’s easy to understand why. It’s also no secret how quenching a proper Mint Julep can be in said summer heat. So what better way to cool off by marrying the two together in this refreshing Julep riff with Town Branch Bourbon.” 


Recipe #2: Back to the Track Julep

by Carley Gaskin, Hospitality 201 (Chicago) 

2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1 tsp. honey

1 grapefruit slice

6 mint leaves

Inspiration: 

“Chicago has two seasons, the bitter cold winters and the absolutely gorgeous summers. I wanted to create a delicious Julep that could be enjoyed not only during Derby Season, but year-round! The honey adds a beautiful texture that pairs perfectly with the bright acidity of grapefruit and, of course, Town Branch Bourbon.”


Recipe #3: Vital Roots

by Sharfiq Cosby, Revival 1869 (Clayton, North Carolina)

2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.25 oz Aperol

2 full droppers chocolate bitters (Bittermens Chocolate Mole Bitters is preferred)

1 barspoon Demerara syrup 

1 barspoon fine sugar

1 barspoon orange marmalade (local, if available)

6-8 mint leaves

Inspiration:

“My inspiration for this cocktail is a guy named John Dabney. As an African American bartender myself, I’m pretty sure many others wondered if any of these classic cocktails were invented by our own and if not invented, then popularized somehow. The Mint Julep is one of those cocktails. John Dabney was a African American slave from Virginia and his ‘Hail Storm’ Julep is the blueprint for Mint Juleps, in my opinion. Aesthetically and factually, this can’t be denied and anyone can fact check me on that. Mr. Dabney ushered in the use of crushed ice with the ‘Hail Storm,’ and this since then has been vital to Mint Juleps because, as the ice dilutes, the drink becomes more complex. I always say to myself, ‘If you’re going to be anything, be vital,’ and I believe John Dabney was just that to cocktail culture.”


 Recipe #4: One Mint Julep

by Rebecca Monday, Vaso at the AC Hotel Columbus (Dublin, Ohio)

2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.5 oz Charred Orange Cordial* 

.5 oz yuzu liqueur 

Inspiration:

“My cocktail’s name was inspired by the song ‘One Mint Julep’ by Ray Charles. As seasons turn in Ohio from winter to spring and summer, I find that Ohioans are in search of spring breaks straight into summer flavors. While making the One Mint Julep, I was able to combine spring and summer flavors of sweet oranges, methods of grilling and charring, as if in a backyard get-together, bright yuzu notes, and fresh mint to round out the cocktail, all while highlighting Town Branch Bourbon and giving homage to the classic Mint Julep. Vaso transitions with seasons as we are an outdoor rooftop bar and our community joins us in this transition by getting excited to sit outside and watch the beautiful sunset views. This cocktail was inspired by that season transition with a culinary twist.


 Recipe #5: …And Miami On The Inside

by Pete Sierwuk, The Dalmar (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

1.75 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.5 oz Cognac 

1 oz Guava Mint Syrup*

Inspiration:

The inspiration for this drink comes from a mix of those quirky names, the energy of hearing them called out with your race ticket clutched in one hand while holding an ice cold, refreshing Julep in the other. The feeling of excitement and adrenaline paired with refreshing mint, Bourbon and guava. Two of the best things about South Florida are the sunny days and the Cuban food. So I wanted to pair two of my favorite flavors from this combo: mint and pastelitos (guava pastries). The combination is refreshing, tropical, and every sip makes you long for the sunny, beach-filled days, hopefully with a winning race ticket in your hand.


Recipe #6: Apricot Julep 

by Tony Abou-Ganim, Modern Mixologist (Las Vegas)

1.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.5 oz Marie Brizard Apry Liqueur

1 oz simple syrup

10-12 fresh spearmint leaves

3 slices fresh apricot

Inspiration:

“The Mint Julep is a creation that brings wisdom to fools, turns wallflowers into the life and soul of the party, makes the clumsy graceful, the weak strong, and brings sophistication and charm to the most ill-mannered lout.” —Gary Regan, “The Book of Bourbon”


Recipe #7: Best Coast Julep

by Sarah L.M. Mengoni, Kimpton Hotels & Historically Drinking (Los Angeles)

1.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

2.5 oz mango kombucha (GT brand, widely available, is recommended)

.5 tsp white granulated sugar

2 swaths lime peel

half a lime, hollowed out 

Inspiration:

“In making this Los Angeles-inspired version of a Mint Julep, I chose to use kombucha as a nod to the cult of health here in L.A. It’s the place where health food trends start, are propagated and become part of the identity of the city. The mango in the kombucha plays deliciously well with the toasty barrel aromas in the Town Branch Bourbon and reminds me of the Mexican fruit carts that are all over the city. The aromatics and visual appeal of mint in the classic Mint Julep are so important, and I wanted to recreate that effect. As SoCal is known for its citrus, lime was the perfect replacement. The aromatics from the oils in the peel add a subtle layer of complexity to the drink, and the palm tree garnish smells great and looks like a day at the beach. As it should, the Town Branch Bourbon shines in this cocktail, like the sun does every day in L.A.” 


Recipe #8: Early Spring Julep

by Daniel Dufek, Shanghai Speakeasy (Madison, Wisconsin)

2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.5 oz Early Spring Old Fashioned Syrup* 

12-14 fresh mint leaves

Inspiration:

“This cocktail is sort of a love letter to both the Wisconsin Old Fashioned and a Julep. I love and hate both cocktails dearly. 🙂 When they’re done well, they’re great and distinctive cocktails. When done poorly, they’re pretty terrible. I’ve done Old Fashioned builds before, where I incorporate the muddled cherry and orange (that is so popular across Wisconsin) into a compound simple syrup, so it can still be executed like a traditional Old Fashioned (spirit, sugar, bitters, water). This drink uses a syrup that is based on that same idea. However, as a nod to this particular transitional season we’re in now, I’ve swapped out the cherry for pomegranate, and then utilized it here in place of the traditional simple syrup (or sugar) of a Mint Julep. It’s fruity, but still whiskey forward, and the bitters and acidity of the pomegranate molasses are a really nice foil for the sweetness of the sugar and mint.”  


Recipe #9: Julep Old Fashioned

by Freddie Sarkis, Liquor Lab (Nashville, Tennessee)

2 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

.25 oz Demerara syrup (2:1 Demerara sugar to water)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 spearmint tea bag

Inspiration:

“Nashville is a city that loves whiskey, the ones made not far from here and the ones made just a little ways north. Giving a little Julep-inspired twist to a year-round favorite mixes it up and still keeps it simple enough that anyone can easily enjoy it in their own home without much fuss.”


Recipe #10: The Mint Chocolate Julep

by Anthony Baker, “Professor Baker” (New York)

1.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.75 oz crѐme de cacao liqueur

12 mint leaves

6 dashes Angostura Cocoa Bitters

Inspiration:

“This is a typical Mint Julep recipe with a small twist. I added chocolate flavor using crѐme de cacao liqueur, which may remind drinkers of mint chocolate ice cream. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to mix these two commonly married flavors together using fresh mint instead of the usual crѐme de menthe.”


Recipe #11: The Stretch Runner

by Lucinda Sterling, Middle Branch and Seaborne (New York)

1.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Syrup*

.5 oz Cherry Heering Liqueur

6 to 8 fresh shiso leaves

6 to 8 anise hyssop leaves

10-15 fresh spearmint leaves

.5 oz applejack (New York State preferred), float

Inspiration:

“My inspiration for The Stretch Runner was cherry liqueur, light and zesty in flavor, yet complementary to the oak and vanilla in the Bourbon. With so many great applejacks hailing from New York, I thought it would be a great partner with the caramel notes in the Town Branch.”


Recipe #12: Mountain Honey Julep

by Antoine Hodge, The Wine Bar & Cellar (Sylva, North Carolina)

 2.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

.5 oz Orange Blossom Mountain Honey Syrup* (2:1 honey to water)

16-20 mint leaves

Inspiration:

“I am currently in Sylva, North Carolina working at The Wine Bar & Cellar and opening a rustic Southern Italian restaurant called Ilda. I chose to use mountain honey instead of simple syrup, not to disrespect the original Julep recipe, but to incorporate the amazing local ingredients I have in my reach and use them to reinterpret a Derby classic!”


 Recipe #13: “No Kings”

by Deke Dunne, Allegory at the Eaton DC Hotel (Washington, D.C.)

1.5 oz Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1 oz Don Ciccio & Figli Cerasum Aperitivo 

8 mint leaves 

Peychaud’s Bitters, sprayed

Inspiration:

“Washington, D.C. has a rich history of graffiti art, from the legendary graffiti artist Cool Disco Dan in the ‘70s and ‘80s to the more recent iconic murals and pop-ups of the No Kings Collective. In order to pay homage to a criminally underappreciated art scene, I give you the ‘No Kings.’ No Kings is a Julep variation made with Town Branch Bourbon, which has notes of mint and cherry, and I combined it with Washington D.C.’s very own Don Ciccio & Figli Cerasum Aperitivo, a juicy, cherry blossom bitter liqueur. I then combined those ingredients with fresh mint and Peychaud’s Bitters, which has notes of cherry and anise. The spraying of the bitters is a representation of the amazing street art pioneers that spanned generations in Washington, D.C.”