On Saturday, May 2, embrace the American tradition that is the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby and serve up the official drink, the mint julep. Of all the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby seems to have the most engrained sense of tradition. From the Twin Spires atop Churchill Downs’ original grandstand, to the University of Louisville’s marching band pumping “My Old Kentucky Home,” to the winner’s impressive garland of roses, everything about the Derby is a steeped brew thick with history. And the mint julep is no different.
Each of the Triple Crown races boasts its own official cocktail, but the mint julep is the only one with staying power. First introduced as the official tipple in 1938, things have remained pretty much the same since, with Old Forester signing on as the official bourbon whisky for 2015. All told, about 120,000 mint juleps are served per year at the race, using more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of crushed ice.
The story behind the mint julep, and the ceremony behind its construction, is one of mixologist lore. For a look behind the bar, click here.
Come race time, if you’re not partying up in Louisville, raise a julep at home with the official recipe.
- Fresh mint sprigs
- 2 tsp. mineral water, flat
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar, raw
- 2 oz. Old Forester bourbon
- Cracked ice
In a chilled julep chalice, lightly rub six to eight mint leaves on the inside walls, bruising the leaves slightly; leave the mint in the cup (you can also muddle the mint, but delicately). Fill the cup two-thirds of the way with cracked ice; slowly add bourbon, allowing it to trickle through ice. In a separate mixing cup, combine water and sugar, stirring until mostly dissolved; add to julep cup. Stir with a bar spoon until cup frosts—no more than 60 seconds. Top with more cracked ice and a sprig of mint for garnish. Enjoy!