These ice cold Blackberry-Lemon Mint Juleps are a fragrant and refreshing twist on a classic. Perfect for sipping on a warm day!
Having been born and raised in the Northeast, I didn’t grow up with many Southern specialties on the menu. From a young age, I could tell you where to get the best bagel in the area, formed steadfast opinions about pizza, and pretty much defined my summers with lobster rolls and fresh Jersey corn. It wasn’t until I went to college in Virginia that I really began to explore Southern cuisine. From Chess Pie and Country Ham Biscuits, to cheesy grits and BBQ of a quality I’d never tasted before in my life; my four years of college were as delicious as they were educational. Of course, I also got to taste my first Mint Julep. Cold and refreshing on a hot afternoon, the julep is a quintessential Southern sip. In this twist, I add a splash of lemon juice and fresh blackberry syrup to the cup, creating a lightly sweet and fruity variation on the classic recipe. Blackberry-Lemon Mint Juleps are perfect for warm weather entertaining, or for watching the upcoming horse races!
Easy Blackberry Syrup
To make the fresh blackberry syrup, I utilize a simple maceration method. Macerating berries in sugar naturally softens them and draws out their juices, creating a rich, full-flavored syrup. It’s incredibly easy to do: just toss the berries with sugar and let them sit for 30-45 minutes, stirring a few times. Since I was using the berry syrup to replace the simple syrup used in the classic cocktail, I used a bit more sugar than I normally would to macerate. I also passed the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to separate the liquids from the solids. Without straining, the macerated berries and syrup make an excellent topping for ice cream, pancakes, or waffles, so don’t hesitate to make extra! It keeps well for a few days, stored covered in the refrigerator.
About Mint Julep Cups
Mint Juleps are traditionally served in a pewter or silver julep cup, similar to those shown in this post. They are a special tradition in some families, where cups are collected and passed down through generations. Practically-speaking, julep cups retain the ice’s chill very well, and will form a beautiful layer of frost on the outside in a properly prepared cocktail. To retain this frost, a julep cup should be held by its top or bottom rim, which is usually adorned with a beaded or solid band.
Tips and Tools For Great Mint Juleps
- You’ll need a cocktail muddler (both wooden and steel muddlers are pictured in the photos above) to lightly crush the mint leaves in the cup and bring out their aromatic oils. Avoid over-muddling to the point of totally breaking down the leaves, or they will become bitter.
- Crushed ice is best for mint juleps! You can use a Lewis Bag to crush ice at home, or if you need an especially large amount for a party, you can purchase bags of it pre-crushed from several national fast food restaurants and convenience stores.
- Chill the julep cups in the freezer before making the cocktails for best results.
- Instructions for sparkling and non-alcoholic variations are in the recipe notes.
Hot day? Cold mint juleps. They’re a match made in heaven!
Blackberry-Lemon Mint Juleps
These refreshing cocktails are perfect for summer entertaining!
- 1/2 pint blackberries, rinsed and left slightly damp, plus additional berries for garnish
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 24 mint leaves, divided, plus additional for garnish
- 4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 1-1/3 cup bourbon, divided
- crushed ice, for filling julep cups
- curled lemon rind, for garnish
Place metal mint julep cups in the freezer to chill before serving.
In a bowl, combine berries with granulated sugar. Let stand for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until berries release their juices and form a syrup. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on berries to release juices. Discard solids. You should have about 1/2 cup blackberry syrup.
Place 2 tablespoons blackberry syrup in each julep cup. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 6 mint leaves to each cup. Muddle the mint leaves into the syrup in each cup just until lightly crushed (don't overdo it, or the mint will become bitter).
Add 3 ounces (1/3 cup) bourbon to each cup and fill with crushed ice. Stir until the cup starts to look frosty on the outside. Add additional ice to the cup to fill. Serve, garnished with mint leaves, curled lemon peel, and additional berries, if desired.
- Triple Berry: macerate equal parts of quartered strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries (1/2 pint total)
- Sparkle it: add a splash of sparkling water
- Non-alcoholic: omit bourbon and substitute lemonade, sparkling water, or ginger ale