This cranberry-apple spin on the classic mint julep recipe brings the summer cocktail favorite into fall and winter. The tart-sweet combination of cranberry and apple plays well with the natural smoothness of bourbon, and the whole drink is lifted by the refreshing flavor of fresh mint. Give it a try for your next at-home happy hour or holiday celebration!
About the cranberry-apple mint julep recipe
Our cranberry-apple mint julep recipe was developed by Kaleigh Bulone to bring this classic cocktail, which is a mainstay of summer parties and derby celebrations, into the fall and winter seasons.
The classic recipe consists of muddled sugar and mint leaves with bourbon and crushed ice, all served in a copper cup that keeps the drink tasting frosty with every sip.
Cranberry Apple Mint Julep
- Copper Tumbler
- Cocktail Shaker
- Pestle, Bar Spoon,Wooden Spoon
- 8 oz cran-apple juice
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 fresh mint leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Extra sprig of fresh mint or slice of green apple for garnish (optional)
- 1. Add sugar and two leaves of mint to the bottom of your shaker.
- 2. Muddle the two together, using a pestle, the flat side of your bar spoon, or the handle of a wooden spoon. Your goal is to crush the leaves into the sugar; the grainy texture will help the leaves release their juice, unlocking the fragrance and flavor of the mint leaves.
- 3. Pour in the bourbon and the cran-apple juice.
- 4. Replace the cap on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
- 5. Pour the drink into a copper tumbler or mug.
- 6. Add ice cubes or crushed ice and stir until the whole drink is thoroughly chilled.
- 7. Add a fresh mint sprig or a slice of green apple to the top for garnish, if desired.
Ingredients for the cranberry-apple mint julep recipe
Let’s take a look at the different ingredients that our cranberry-apple mint julep recipe calls for and why each one is important.
Just as in a classic mint julep recipe, ours starts with mint leaves muddled in sugar.
Some recipes call for the use of simple syrup instead of sugar, or even the creation of a mint simple syrup using the mint-infused sugar. However, the classic method of muddling sugar and mint in the bottom of a glass or shaker works well for us. Why? Well, the coarseness of the sugar works as an abrasive to help the leaves release more of their juice and flavor.
Granulated vs. superfine sugar
You can opt to use regular granulated sugar or superfine sugar.
Superfine sugar can be either store-bought or made by pulsing granulated sugar in a blender a few times. This can help the sugar dissolve more easily. However, we’ve also found that the action of muddling the sugar and mint helps make the sugar dissolve a little more quickly, too.
If you use regular granulated sugar, be sure to pay extra attention to ensure that all of the sugar dissolves.
A note on mint simple syrup
While making a mint simple syrup ahead of time can help the cocktail come together quickly, we don’t think it’s worth the trade-off in terms of freshness. To us, the work of making an entire mint simple syrup isn’t worth shaving off the few seconds it would take to muddle mint and sugar.
There’s just no artificial substitute for fresh mint leaves! If you can’t get your hands on mint, we’d recommend opting for a different cocktail altogether, as extracts and syrups will have an artificial flavor. That mint sprig garnish is more than just decoration, too; it brings minty aromas to the top of the glass so they can be inhaled with every sip.
Using a cran-apple juice is a smart shortcut to adding fall and winter flavors. The tartness of the cranberry juice works delightfully well with the mint. Bourbon’s natural undertones of vanilla and caramel play nicely with these cool-weather flavors, too.
Bourbon brings the entire drink together. This American whisky is barrel-aged, which brings out flavors including caramelized sugar and vanilla, depending on your variety. The best liquor for any cocktail is the one you prefer to drink, so go ahead and choose your favorite type of bourbon for this cocktail.
The mint julep is traditionally served in a signature mint julep cup. If you don’t have julep cups, a copper tumbler or even a Moscow mule mug is another great choice! Copper chills well, which means that every time your lips meet the glass, you’ll enjoy a chilly sensation.
We also love how copper mugs look on an autumn tablescape or as party of a holiday spread.
When to serve the cranberry-apple mint julep
This spin on a mint julep is perfect for any holiday celebration, or for a special treat on a warm fall afternoon. Indoors or out, it’s a refreshing drink to enjoy with family and friends. We hope it helps you celebrate the season!
All images and recipe courtesy of Kaleigh Bulone.