How to Choose the Best Bourbon for Mint Juleps

You can't go wrong with a Kentucky bourbon for Derby Day cocktails

What are the best bourbons for Mint Juleps?

It's no secret that we're sort of obsessed with bourbon here. (After all, bourbon is sexy.) And there's no better bourbon cocktail than Derby Day's mint juleps. While we've give you all kinds of variations on the mint julep, the real question is: how to pick the best bourbon for your mint julep? 

Bourbons are typically wheat-based or rye-based; a rye bourbon (like Wild Turkey) will have a spicy backbone, while a wheated bourbon (like Maker's Mark) will have a sweet, smooth taste. And some are equal wheat and rye (i.e. Buffalo Trace). So most of the debate about the best bourbons for mint juleps focuses on the rye versus wheat debate. A sweet, smooth mint julep or a spicy mint julep?

Some say that a middle-ground bourbon, like Buffalo Trace, is best. But when we asked Sean Josephs, proprietor of Maysville in New York City (a hot new fine dining and whiskey joint), he preferred the wheat. "My suggestions are Larceny, Rebel Yell Reserve, and Old Weller Special Reserve," he says. "All three are wheated bourbon, which means rye is substituted for wheat in the mash bill... The absence of rye, which is the most spicy of the grains, makes for a smoother bourbon with less bite, which is well suited for a julep where you want a refreshing drink where the mint can really shine through. Also, all three of the recommended bourbons are on the young side (in the 5-year range), which also results in a lighter bourbon ideal for the ultimate summer bourbon beverage."

So a wheated bourbon may just bring the right amount of sweetness to your mint julep. But really, in conclusion: With so many good bourbons on the market, you can't go wrong with any of them.


This article was originally published May 1, 2013.