Few cocktails are so tightly linked to a particular event than the mint julep is with the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs—the site of the famous annual horse race—has been promoting the cocktail since 1938. It's a staple at most cocktail bars and whiskey bars, a refreshing drink that is traditionally made with bourbon, sugar and water, topped with crushed ice and mint. If you can't enjoy it at the Derby itself, try the next best place: on a rooftop bar, perhaps, or at one of the following fine establishments serving the best mint juleps in the city.
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Where to find the best mint juleps in LA
Most people immediately think of ribs, brisket and pulled pork when they hear about Bludso's Bar & Que, the second, more dressed up location of the Compton BBQ spot. But you'd be missing out if you didn't order the Julep on Tap here, made with Evan Williams bourbon, mint, sugar and bitters. Just because it's pre-made, though, doesn't mean they mess around with presentation. A mound of crushed ice and a fresh sprig of mint still tops off the traditional silver mug.
Arguably the city’s premiere destination for whiskey lovers, it's no surprise that this Downtown den has a fantastic mint julep. The drink is made with Woodford Reserve Seven Grand Batched Bourbon, mint and sugar, all served over shaved ice—grab one for a little liquid courage before you challenge that hottie in the corner to a game of pool.
You'd never expect to find some of the best 'tails in LA in the back of a place that serves finger-licking garlic fries. Yet, the Varnish—tucked inside an old storage room at Cole's and marked solely by the etching of a cocktail on the door—has managed to become the bastion of this city's drinking culture. You'll find a stellar mint julep here, made with the traditional bourbon—though ask and you can sub in rye, or even mezcal. A sprinkling of powdered sugar on top gives it a sweet edge.
With a quirky name and a low-key location, Old Man Bar is known for its impressive list of old-fashioneds (there are upwards of 10, in fact). But the mint julep at this bar in the back of Hatchet Hall shouldn't be overlooked. Named Jim's Julip, it's made with Old Grand-Dad Bonded bourbon and ginger, with a sprinkling of cracked pepper on top (and, of course, a bit of mint).
Brentwood's swanky steakhouse, Baltaire, is known for serving up a seriously good slab of meat. Also a standout here? The mint julep, which you can customize by choosing your own spirit: bourbon, gin, rum, rye, tequila or vodka. The rest is all there—sugar, water and, of course, the crushed ice and mint—all served in a beautiful copper tumbler.
With beer casks stacked up against the wall and red leather booths lining the windows, this cozy neighborhood gastropub offers a particularly welcoming vibe. That doesn't mean you'll be given the side eye for ordering a mint julep over a beer, though. The version here is straightforward enough—bourbon, mint and simple syrup—but with a whiskey selection as vast as Franklin's, you know you're getting the good stuff.