Kentucky Derby: Try This Mint Julep Recipe ... with a Spicy Twist

Edward Lee, a former Top Chef contestant uses jalepeño to spice up this classic cocktail

Photo: Grant Cornett. Inset:Scott McDermott/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Wondering what to serve at your Kentucky Derby party this weekend?

Let Edward Lee, one of Louisville, Ky.’s celebrity chefs, help you out.

The former Top Chef contestant (he made it to the top five in season 9) and brand new dad – his daughter Arden Rose Lee was born on April 29 – shares his special version of the quintessential cocktail typically served at the premiere horse race.

“To be honest, most juleps I’ve had are overly sweet, cloying, and hard to finish,” Lee tells PEOPLE. “This julep is my twist: minty and verdant, with a kick of spice at the end that makes you want another sip.”

Just be sure to save some for your guests.

Jalapeño-Spiked Bourbon Julep

Makes 1

4 to 6 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1 oz. jalapeño simple syrup (recipe follows)
Crushed ice
2½ oz. bourbon
Splash of club soda
A jalapeño slice for garnish

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup, add the simple syrup, and gently bruise the leaves with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon.

Add enough crushed ice to fill the cup almost two-thirds of the way.

Add the bourbon and stir gently, then fill the cup almost full with more crushed ice.

Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with the mint sprig and slice of jalapeño and serve immediately.

Jalapeño Simple Syrup

Makes 1½ cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and peppers and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.

Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Excerpted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee.

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