Think outside the bourbon box.

By Elyse Inamine
Updated May 25, 2017
Patina Restaurant Group

Even if you’re not at Churchill Downs this Saturday, you can still drink as if you are.

Bartenders across the country are rethinking the mint julep, going way beyond that drink's classic combination of bourbon, simple syrup and mint (though they're keeping those fluffy mounds of crushed ice). This Kentucky Derby, chose your own julep adventure:

Spicy: Jalapeño Julep

Mixologist Evan Charest’s mint julep may appear classic, but wait until you take a sip. A peppery, puckery syrup zips through this tequila-powered drink at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse in L.A.

Richard Shilkus

Fruity: Concord Grape Julep

At Spilt Milk in Chicago, rising bartenders Matty Eggleston, Tony Selna and Jason Turley, alums of Nico Osteria, The J. Parker, Bar Deville and Lone Wolf, are seeing purple. Beyond the usual mountain of ice pebbles and bouquet of mint, the team adds Lakewood organic concord grape juice and Nocino della Christina walnut liqueur made with nuts hand-picked in Napa Valley. Rye whiskey and a jolt of cognac ensure fun times ahead.

Sidney Bensimon

Sweet: Old Man Scribner

There’s an actual “Old Man Scribner” who inspired this citrusy number at Prospect inside Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter, New York. Head bartender Michael Kang created this take on the julep as a boozy ode to the original owner of the upstate New York hotel back in the 1960s. Scribner was a whiskey smash kind of man, but this cocktail is made with applejack as a nod to the region.

The Venetian® Las Vegas

Larger Than Life: Julep For 2 (Don’t Mind If I Do)

Bigger is better, and the same logic applies to this shareable cocktail at The Dorsey in Las Vegas. Attaboy’s Sam Ross and Café Clover’s David Rabin devised this behemoth of a cocktail by shaking together sugar cubs, bourbon and apple brandy with the crushed ice. Along with with more crushed ice and mint sprigs, the julep is garnished with a rum float.