The julep is to the Kentucky Derby as Champagne is to New 12 months’s Eve, or maybe as turkey is to Thanksgiving; one merely doesn’t exist with out the opposite.
But the julep is a cocktail that wears many hats, if you’ll. The basic drink of bourbon and mint, with a little bit of sugar and loads of crushed ice, is an American basic. However there are, in fact, any variety of methods to experiment with a basic: a typical bourbon, or one thing extra refined; sugar, or one other sweetener; cocktail accents that conventional julep drinkers might hardly have imagined; different spirits introduced into service.
Based on cocktail guru David Wondrich, the mint julep’s roots stretch again to the late 18th century, and the drink grew to become a beloved fixture of Southern life nicely past Kentucky, the religious homeland of bourbon. Even my circle of relatives confirms as a lot. I lately got here throughout a preserved letter, in a correspondence between two Civil Conflict-era ancestors. “Brother William has been very feeble,” one among my 19th-century relations penned to a different, reporting on an sickness within the household. “He takes little or no nourishment—solely beef tea and a mint Julep 4 instances a day.”
“In the 1800s, you did not have aspirin to soothe your aches and pains, you had mint juleps,” confirms Elizabeth McCall, assistant grasp distiller of official Kentucky Derby bourbon Woodford Reserve. “The bourbon could help soothe the aches and pains, with sugar to soften the alcohol and mint to freshen the breath. It was originally a morning drink, a bracer.”
The mint julep grew to become the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby after the autumn of Prohibition. “Mint juleps have been a tradition at the Kentucky Derby since 1938,” says McCall. Even their silver cups performed a historic function, serving as trophies within the early days of horse racing.
At present, practically 120,000 juleps are served on the Kentucky Derby yearly—which interprets to a exceptional 1,000 kilos of mint and 60,000 kilos of ice. All that mint, by the way, is true Kentucky mint; it’s been sourced from the identical vendor, Dohn and Dohn Gardens, for greater than 30 years.
Order a julep at one among many “julep houses”—really spectacular bar operations on the Churchill Downs grounds, every staffed with forty hardworking workers—and also you’ll obtain an exquisite Outdated Forester julep over crushed ice. In additional unique areas, Woodford Reserve juleps are made out of scratch. And for true VIPs? Woodford Reserve’s legendary $1000 Mint Julep Cup—the cup created by Louisville-based jeweler From the Vault; the ice, from Kentucky limestone-filtered water; the garnish, a rose petal from the Garland of Roses, which is able to adorn the Derby-winning horse.
The official Champagne companion of the Kentucky Derby, G.H. Mumm, additionally created a julep-inspired cocktail of its personal, with sage-infused honey, lavender buds along with mint, and, in fact, a beneficiant pour of the bubbly.
Roam the full of life streets of Louisville throughout Derby weekend and also you’ll encounter any variety of bars serving conventional juleps—in addition to craft cocktail bars creating their very own interpretations of the basic cocktail. Proof on Most important, at Louisville’s 21c Museum Resort, incorporates a julep the place single-barrel bourbon is swizzled with ginger-lime cordial, and along with a mint garnish, a spice mix of clove, star anise, nutmeg and black pepper is torched atop. Louisville’s Feast BBQ blends up a julep-inspired slush, with brown sugar and Heaven Hill bourbon; at Butchertown Grocery, native Copper & Kings Brandy is swapped in for whiskey, with Amaro Braulio, demerara, and mint.
Past Louisville, the “Witherow Julep” at Sean Brock’s Husk in Savannah unites Tennessee whiskey with Amaro Ciociaro and a cola discount with smoked cocoa nibs and chocolate rye, garnished with chocolate mint from the restaurant’s personal backyard. At Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South in Atlanta, “A Study in Pink” is a brighter-hued tackle the julep, with bourbon, sherry, macerated strawberry, raspberry, and mint, bought for Derby week solely.
And because the Derby coincides with Cinco de Mayo in 2018, Louisville’s iconic Brown Resort envisioned a high-roller julep of its personal: the “Agave Julep,” bought on the resort for a cool $1500. Initially from Mexico, beverage director Agustin Sosa created a drink that paired the uncommon Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2 (aged for eight years; an uncommon size of time for tequila) with Outdated Rip Van Winkle 25-year-old bourbon, the oldest bottle by the cult favourite distillery. Two styles of mint—chocolate mint and Kentucky Colonel mint—full his creation. The julep lends itself to many incarnations.
So, elevate a glass to the 144th operating of the Kentucky Derby. What sort of glass? In fact, there’s just one reply.
A basic julep recipe perfect for the Derby. Begin with loads of mint and loads of crushed ice and, to really get into the Derby spirit, its official bourbon, Woodford Reserve.
2 ounces bourbon
three/four ounce easy syrup
10 mint leaves, plus three giant sprigs for garnish
To the underside of a julep cup, add mint leaves and easy syrup. Gently press mint leaves with a muddler. Add bourbon. Pack crushed ice into the cup, up and over the rim. Garnish with three mint sprigs (tapping them firmly in opposition to your hand earlier than including, to be able to launch the mint’s aroma) and a straw.