Whether enjoying the Kentucky Derby or looking for a cocktail-meets-dessert treat these Mint Julep Ice Cream Floats are the winning ticket! Delicious homemade mint ice cream and all the classic julep ingredients make these a favorite any time.
The float is a playful twist on the classic cocktail, perfect for those hot summer days or for those who simply crave a unique and indulgent treat. And of Derby Day!
The sweet and creamy mint ice cream combined with the bold flavors of the bourbon, zesty fizz from seltzer water combine for a thirst-quenching delight. The mint ice cream is great on its own too.
The Classic Mint Julep
The mint julep is a cocktail with a long and storied history, dating back to the early 1800s. Its exact origins are unclear, but it’s widely believed to have been created in the Southern United States, particularly in the state of Kentucky, where it has become an iconic beverage associated with the Kentucky Derby.
Some historians trace the origins of the mint julep to the Arabic word “julab,” which refers to a sweetened rose water used for medicinal purposes. Others suggest that it was derived from a similar drink made with brandy, which was popular in the late 1700s.
The earliest written recipe for a mint julep appeared in a book called “The Bar-Tender’s Guide,” published in 1862 by Jerry Thomas, who was a well-known bartender in New York City at the time. The recipe called for muddling fresh mint leaves with sugar and water, then adding bourbon and ice.
Over time, the recipe evolved to include crushed ice, which helped to dilute the bourbon and create a smoother, more refreshing cocktail. It also became traditional to serve the mint julep in a silver or pewter cup, which helped to keep the drink chilled and added to its elegant appearance.
Today, the mint julep is considered a classic cocktail and is closely associated with Southern hospitality and the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. It continues to be enjoyed by cocktail enthusiasts around the world, and its origins remain a subject of fascination and debate among historians and bartenders alike.
Mint Julep Cocktail Floats
There is no need to muddle mint for these easy ice cream floats and we even serve them in a mint julep cup! The mint is in the ice cream. Combined with a good bourbon and effervescent seltzer, all the flavors of a classic mint julep recipe are present. Complete with a sprig of mint.
Heavy Whipping Cream or Half and Half. This will be part of the ice cream base.
Whole Milk. Also part of the ice cream base. The combination of richer cream and some whole milk give the finished ice cream the perfect texture.
Granulated Sugar. Sweetens the homemade ice cream.
Fresh Spearmint Leaves. These will steep in the heated ice cream base to flavor it before it’s frozen. The flavor is amazing!
Vanilla Extract. Adds more flavor to the ice cream.
Bourbon. You’ll need 1 1/2 ounce per ice cream float. We suggest using a good bourbon for the best flavor. And Kentucky bourbon if you are serving on derby weekend!
Seltzer water. Three-four ounces is added to each cocktail float. Plain soda water can also be used.
Mint sprigs. A fresh mint sprig is perfect for decoration.
This recipe does use an ice cream maker. Follow the directions for your machine when adding the base mixture for processing time and freezing.
How to Make it
STEP 1. Make the ice cream base
Combine the cream or half and half, milk and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often to until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from heat and add the mint leaves. Stir to combine and allow to sit for 1 hour for the flavor to develop.
Strain the mixture and discard the leaves. Stir in the vanilla extract and chill in the refrigerator until fully cold (a few hours or overnight).
STEP 2. Make the homemade ice cream
Once chilled, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once complete, spoon into a freezer proof container and chill overnight.
STEP 3. Scoop and freeze
This step allows balls of ice cream to freeze individually. It both makes assembling the floats easier but the ice cream stays frozen longer once added to the Mint Julep cocktail float.
Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Scoop the ice cream into 2-inch balls, place on the prepared pan and return to the freezer for them to become solid (2 hours or longer).
STEP 3. Make the Mint Julep Floats
Place 3 ice cream balls in a chilled 8 ounce Julep cup. Pour in the bourbon and fill with seltzer water.
We loved these glass mint julep cups (usually they are served in a silver cup) for serving too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Simply leave out the bourbon and make the ice cream float as described. You could change the seltzer water to a flavored soda to add more flavor too.
Kentucky Derby Party PRINTABLE Betting Cards!
If you are hosting a party or Derby watching you’ll love these free printable Kentucky Derby Party Betting Cards we’ve made! There is a sheet of them which I recommend you print on cardstock and then cut out the individual cards.
Whether with a group or watching at home they are a fun way to test your betting skills! Just in case you need a primer on the three bets to be placed on a race, here are the definitions of each one:
To ‘Win’: betting on a horse to come in first place (that’s pretty obvious)
To ‘Place’: betting on a horse to come in first OR second place (you don’t pick which place but win the bet if the horse comes in first or second)
To ‘Show’: betting on a horse to come in first, second OR third. If your horse makes into any of those three spots, you win!
More recipes you’ll love!
Mint Julep Derby Ice Cream Floats with Homemade Mint Ice Cream
Ingredients for Homemade Mint Ice Cream:
- 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream or Half and Half
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- ¾ cups Granulated Sugar
- 2 cups fresh Spearmint Leaves
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Ingredients for Mint Julep Derby Ice Cream Floats (per float):
- 1 1/2 ounces Bourbon
- 3 Mint Ice Cream Balls
- 3-4 ounces Seltzer Water
- Garnish: stem of mint
Instructions for Homemade Mint Ice Cream:
- In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream/half and half, milk and sugar. Bring almost to a simmer, stirring often until the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add the mint leaves, stirring them into the liquid. Allow to sit for 1 hour.
- Strain and add the vanilla. Chill until fully cold for a few hours in the refrigerator or overnight. Once chilled, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once complete, spoon into a freezer proof container and chill overnight.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Scoop the ice cream into 2-inch balls, place on the prepared pan and return to the freezer for them to become solid (2 hours or longer).
Instructions for Mint Julep Derby Ice Cream Floats:
- Place 3 ice cream balls in a chilled 8 ounce Julep cup. Pour in the bourbon and fill with seltzer water.
Originally published: May 6, 2016