No drink captures the understated elegance and welcoming spirit of the South as much as the mint julep cocktail. The mint julep ingredients of bourbon, sugar, and mint combine together for a cool delectable finish while the shaved or crushed ice provides a refreshing uplift for a hot summer or spring day.
The simplicity and elegance of the drink make the Kentucky mint julep the cocktail of choice for the grand spectacle of the Kentucky Derby. Nothing quite says spring in the South like the brightly colored dresses and suits of the Kentucky Derby attendees, mint julep drinks, and a spirited debate of who will be the horse of the year. Later, as the summer heat and humidity sets in and peaches begin to ripen in the fields, the peach mint julep adds an extra sweetness to the classic mint julep, perfect for a pick me up on a hot August afternoon.
But what is the mint julep without traditional Southern cuisine to go along with it? Here we have some of the best Southern recipes to savor with this truly Southern cocktail.
Pimento Cheese Sandwich
This incredible cheese spread is the caviar of Southern cuisine. Pimento cheese is also called Southern pâté. Spread between two pieces of bread or on crackers, it’s a Southern soul food staple. The spread is made with pimentos, cheddar cheese, and mayonnaise. This dish is truly an everyday, any time kind of meal. You can have it on toast for breakfast, as a sandwich for lunch, or an appetizer for dinner or even as the main course added to a burger or meat entree. For a lighter option, since the cheese packs its bunch in calories, many people eat it with raw fresh vegetables like carrots or celery. This peppery, cheesy goodness pairs perfectly with the cool mint julep.
Try our take on pimento cheese for your next sandwich!
If you’ve never had a bag of boiled peanuts, be prepared for this Southern food edible experience quite unlike any other. The briny deliciousness reminds one of salty seafood, but it’s entirely plant-based protein! But first you have to break open the peanut shell and slurp the peanut up, like a veggie style oyster. Between the mouth watering flavor and interesting textures, there’s nothing quite like a boiled peanut.
Peanuts are commonly grown in the Southern states due to the ideal subtropical climate and boiled peanuts are sold throughout the region. Made with raw or green typically Valencia peanuts, the peanuts are boiled in salt water until they are soft. It used to be that you primarily found boiled peanuts at roadside stands or big events. Now, many restaurants also sell them now as appetizers or side dishes. Whether fine dining or at a baseball game, the boiled peanut and mint julep are a perfect companion.
Southern Fried Chicken
This is a traditionally Southern food staple that has become an American soul food classic. Chicken pieces are coated with seasoned batter and either pan-fried, air fried, deep fried, or pressure fried. The crispy skin and battered coating of the chicken adds a delectable savory crunch while keeping the meat juicy. The dish originated from Scottish and West African peoples in the South. Scottish frying techniques and African seasoning methods combined to create this incredible dish. You can eat this dish hot or cold. The light meat and incredible savory flavor of fried chicken combines with the fresh mint julep for a powerful punch. It’s an easy Southern food to prepare yourself. We can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stop munching on the fried chicken or sipping on your mint julep.
Grab your buttermilk and check out this tried and true fried chicken recipe.
Pigs were one of the most prevalent livestock animals in the American South, and the Southern food pork barbecue was created as a result. Other places have barbecue, but the core region for it is the Southeastern United States. Smoked and slow roasted until its tender, soaked with smoky flavors such as hickory or maple, and topped off with an incredible mustard based sauce, Carolina barbecue is a thing of legends. It can be served shredded, pulled or chopped and is rubbed in spice and mopped with vinegar while it smokes. Barbecue is often served at large gatherings and festivals, family reunions, or eaten after church. The incredible flavors and smells of a barbecue roast alone are enough to put people in a festive spirit. Paired with a mint julep recipe and you may have just found heaven.
Our barbecue menu ideas will ensure your next cookout is an absolute hit!
Oh She-Crab Soup, how we love you. This Southern food dish is the richest, creamiest, savoriest bisque you’ll ever have. This soup is made from the meat of a fresh female crab (aka she-crab) and is blended with cream and a drop of dry sherry. Found in the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia Coast, you can savor it on the airy porch dining of a Savannah or Charleston restaurant with a mint julep in hand and an ocean breeze curling by.
Pair this she-crab soup with some buttermilk biscuits, and you’ll feel like you’re in heaven.
Okra (Any Which Way)
Fried, boiled in a stew, pickled… Southerners like their okra any which way. A Southern food staple of soul food cooking. The perfect appetizer or side to go with a mint julep. The mild eggplant-like taste of okra pairs wonderfully with the flavors of the mint julep ingredients. Chopped up and cooked in the skillet, fried okra becomes a party snack. Dipped in ranch or any sauce you please, the crunchy breading contrasts with the juicy seeds inside. Just like eggplant, okra is a flavor soaker and is a great way to carry spices and broth further. In a gumbo stew, it adds a wonderful chewy texture and sops up the flavors.
Shrimp & Grits
Brunch anyone? What is brunch without its cocktails like the mint julep? And what is a Southern brunch without shrimp and grits? Grits is a porridge-like dish that’s made from cornmeal. It originated in the South with Native American influence and is derived from a Muskogee tribe maize porridge. Shrimp and Grits is a Lowcountry staple of the Carolinas and Georgia.
Sweet fresh shrimp is essential to the dish but besides the shrimp and the grits, there is a lot of variety in preparation. Some chefs may prepare the shrimp blackened, or with sausage and ham. Many times there is a delicious gravy spread on top, hot sauce, or Cajun seasoning added. Any way it’s prepared, shrimp and grits can be eaten breakfast, lunch or dinner, and is the perfect light dish to pair with a mint julep pitcher. Why a pitcher of mint julep? Well it IS brunch, after all!
Feel like doing some real deal Southern cooking? This popular recipe is sure to satisfy your craving for a classic dish of shrimp and grits.
Peach Dump Cake
What’s better than a peach mint julep on a hot summer day? A julep paired with a peach dump cake topped with freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream. Mmm-mmm. If summer means this much peach goodness you’ll be singing praises for even those hundred degree days with ninety percent humidity. So what IS a dump cake? This is no ordinary cake. A peach dumpcake is much like a peach cobbler, but is made by dumping fruit filling into a pan and then dumping cake mix on top. It’s easy to make and is truly a crowd pleaser.
Take one bite of our crumbly, soft, peachy delight and you might just leave your old peach cobbler recipe behind.
Oysters are the perfect appetizer, or can be a made into a meal with sides of rice and fresh corn. While other cold water regions of the country typically take their oysters raw, the oysters grown in the warmer waters of the South are perfect for roasting. These oysters are steamed and cooked fully and then shoveled onto large tables where oyster roast diners or party guests shuck their own with a knife and clean up with a towel. Fixings like cocktail sauce and lemon are provided so you can spice up your oyster and slurp away. The light briny flavor of the oyster pairs perfectly with the mint julep.
Oh the pecan. Perhaps the perfect nut. It’s meaty, it’s flavorful, it’s got this smoky element to it. And it is perfect in a pie with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream on top. The pecans are mixed with butter, eggs, and many different types of sweetener. There are white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, and honey sweetened pecan pies. Sometimes whiskey is even thrown in. Whiskey based drink with a whiskey flavored pie? The decadence may put you into a stupor, but hey, the heat already is and what is soul food but decadent?
There are so many wonderful variations on the pecan pie recipe. Chocolate, lemon, bourbon, traditional…our list has them all.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes are a contradiction. They manage to make one of the softest gooiest ingredient (the tomato) into a crunchy delectable mouthful. How do they do this you may wonder? Well, they’re unripe green tomatoes and if you’ve ever held a green tomato, you’d notice it’s quite dense. The green tomatoes are sliced and then coated with corneal and fried in fat. The result is a savory, crunchy, acidic soul food side dish. Dipped in ranch is the way to go. Add a mint julep cocktail to sip on and you’re set for a lovely afternoon treat.
Even seafood skeptics can’t resist Southern fried fish, a comforting Southern soul food. If it’s edible, you can guarantee a Southern cook has fried it at some point, and thank goodness for that because we got fried seafood out of it. Fried shrimp, fried catfish, fried hush puppies… Oh, and don’t get us started on hush puppies, one of many of the Southern United States’ gifts to the world. Hush puppies are traditionally served with seafood in the South and are fried cornmeal batter that are gooey and bready in the inside, crunchy on the outside. Wash down all this fried goodness with a cool refreshing mint julep.
Another Lowcountry and soul food staple is the Frogmore stew, also called the Lowcountry boil or Beaufort boil. The recipe comes from St. Helena Island, which is home to members of the Gullah-Geechee community, descendants of formerly enslaved Africans who have their own language and culture derived from African languages and traditions. Frogmore Stew is one of the St. Helena Island soul food dishes that has spread throughout the region. The dish is a delectable mix of boiled fresh shrimp and yellow corn and often also features crabs, crawfish, and potatoes. This light, fresh dish is perfect for the mint julep.
Here’s a Frogmore stew recipe that we love. Its secret ingredient? Beer!
Black Eyed Peas and Collards
New year, new cocktail, new traditions. Pair the classic mint julep cocktail with the New Year’s Day traditional Southern food meal, black eyed peas and collard greens for a new New Years tradition. It’s soul food for a new year. This delicious Southern dish made with black eye peas is combined with boiled collard greens and ham or bacon. It’s the perfect combination of meaty and acidic with the ever-so-slightly-bitter collard green.
Don’t forget to pair this recipe with some cornbread. But, a classic mint julep is the cherry on top.
Not hungry? Fear not. The mint julep can stand alone as the perfect afternoon cocktail.
Try our traditional recipe for this smooth Southern drink.
- 1 teaspoon confection sugar (can sub with ¼ oz. simple syrup)
- 2 oz. Bourbon whiskey
- 2 teaspoons water
- 5 Mint leaves
- In a highball or similar glass, muddle the sugar, water, and 4 of the mint leaves together.
- Fill glass with ice.
- Pour in the bourbon and stir well.
- Garnish your mint julep with the 5th mint leaf.
- Kick back, relax, and enjoy!