Sweet Tea Mint Julep Punch is a festive tea twist on the classic mint julep, made to serve a crowd! It’s ideal for you Kentucky Derby, with a blend of tea, homemade mint simple syrup, and bourbon. You can even make it ahead of time! Serves 8 to 10.
This weekend is Derby weekend and Mother’s Day weekend, so I imagine there are some gatherings in your future…
Never fear, for I am here with a peppy little punch that everyone will want to imbibe in.
Now, the two minutes of Derby craziness during the race isn’t really my thing, but the outfits, the hats, the food, and the cocktail?
THAT is my thing.
I may not be donning a dress with a wide-brimmed hat, but I will be kicking back to celebrate with a glass of this punch!
The mint julep is the classic cocktail to accompany Derby festivities, but I’m making my own little (more like BIG) version. I love sweet tea and nothing says southern charm to me more than sweet tea. Therefore, I felt like it would be the ideal pairing for mint and bourbon!
Served over crushed ice with a big sprig of mint and a slice of lemon, it’s refreshing, boozy, and you won’t be able to stop drinking it.
tea bags – black tea is best and I like to use either Lipton or Luzianne for this recipe. You can use individual tea bags if you usually have those on hand, however they also sell a family-sized option for both brands. If you use family-sized, you will only need 4 bags instead of 16 individuals to make the tea.
sugar – all you need is granulated white sugar for this recipe.
mint – fresh mint is key! You will need it not only for the simple syrup, but also for garnish if you want to achieve the same look you see here.
bourbon – bourbon is the obvious choice for this cocktail, and you can go with a nice mid-price range option like Bulleit or Woodford Reserve.
ice – be sure to have both regular ice cubes and crushed ice on hand for this punch. I like to cool it down with regular ice, but prefer to use crushed ice for serving in glasses.
this recipe’s must haves
I like to assemble the punch in a beverage dispenser, but you can also use a pitcher if you prefer.
To quickly boil water to make tea, I love this gooseneck kettle. You only have to heat it up twice and it’s so much faster than bringing water to boil on the stovetop
here’s how to make sweet tea mint julep punch
make mint simple syrup
In a saucepan, bring water, sugar, and mint leaves to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain out the mint leaves.
Pour the syrup into a bowl and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, then add tea bags. Steep for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Remove the bags and chill the tea in the refrigerator.
Once the syrup and tea have cooled, add them to a large beverage dispenser or pitcher with ice cubes. Pour in bourbon and stir to combine.
Serve in glasses with crushed ice and garnish with mint sprigs and lemon wheels.
tips for success
steep the tea longer. I like to steep the tea for 8 to 10 minutes before removing the bags because I like a really strong tea flavor to come through in the punch. If you want the tea flavor to be a little less strong, steep for 5 to 8 minutes before removing the tea bags.
make elements ahead of time. When I serve this for a party, I like to make the simple syrup and tea well in advance, up to the day before. Then all you need to do is dump the syrup, tea, and bourbon into a pitcher with ice right when you are ready to serve it! This way nothing will get diluted from melting ice as well.
can I use rye whiskey?
I recommend using bourbon. Mint juleps are classically made with bourbon and the slight sweetness of the spirit is a better pairing for this punch than rye whiskey.
can I make sweet tea mint julep punch ahead of time?
I think this is the PERFECT drink to make ahead for a gathering! The syrup and tea need to be chilled anyway, so you might as well make both early. Since you simply stir everything together in the final step, it’s easy to throw in a pitcher or dispenser with ice right before your guests arrive.
Need some more inspiration for cocktails? Check out my cocktails recipe page!
what to serve with sweet tea mint julep punch
Sweet tea mint julep punch is ideal for spring and summer gatherings, and the Kentucky Derby in particular. To go along with that theme, I have some ideas for whether you are serving this at brunch, a cocktail party, or with a full-on meal.
- For brunch, I like the idea of pairing a sweeter drink with something savory and light. A savory dutch baby or letting friends assemble smoked salmon cream cheese bagels are filling and fresh options.
- Keep the bourbon theme going with bourbon habanero honey chicken wings or bourbon peach grilled bbq wings!
- Really impress with a lovely rack of chipotle coffee crusted rack of lamb! Easy to make and goes with all your favorite sides.
Mint Simple Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 15 to 18 mint leaves
- 16 individual-sized tea bags (you can use Lipton or Luzianne)*
- 6 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Garnish: mint springs and lemon wheels
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water, sugar, and mint leaves to a boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes before straining out the mint leaves.
- Pour the syrup into a medium bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add tea bags and steep for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Remove and discard tea bags. Chill the tea in the refrigerator.
- After cooling down the tea and syrup, add both to a beverage dispenser or pitcher with ice cubes. Pour in bourbon and stir to combine.
- Serve in glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and lemon wheels.
*if you prefer, you can also use 1 gallon sized tea bag or 4 family-sized tea bags
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