How to Make Firebird Tavern’s Mint Julep

Celebrate the Kentucky Derby with the classic race day drink.
Photograph By CJ Benninger

A mint julep is the quintessential drink for the Kentucky Derby — the largest-attended horse race in North America. Owen Burke, co-owner of Detroit’s Firebird Tavern and a repeat attendee of the high-stakes Louisville tourney for the past 15 years, is a partner of Woodford Reserve, the maker of the official bourbon for the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s the star of the show,” he says in reference to the spirit, which takes center stage in the cocktail. To celebrate the race on May 4, try this recipe for a Firebird Tavern’s mint julep at home.


  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve
  • 1/2 oz. simple sugar (one-part sugar, one-part water)
  • crushed ice
  • 3-4 fresh mint leaves


  1. Gently press the mint to express the oil and rub inside of a highball glass.
  2. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice, and stir.
  3. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint.

This post was originally published in the May 2019 issue of Hour Detroit. It has been updated for 2024.