So what did you drink this Derby Day? We bet it was a mint julep, and if we’re right, you joined more than a hundred thousand others at Churchill Downs and tons more across the globe who partook in a tradition dating back to 1938, when it was named the “official drink” of the Derby.
Known for its utter simplicity— bourbon gets kissed with water-dissolved white sugar and muddled fresh mint that’s then poured over ice— this simple concoction benefits from fresh ingredients and high-quality bourbon. But how high is high?
At this year’s derby, the good folks at Woodford Reserve served a julep to beat the proverbial band thanks to its $1000 Mint Julep Program: For 13 years, the famous distillery has doled out the equally famous cocktail in silver, custom-engraved cups, sending satisfied sippers home with a commemorative bottle as well as an oak box to keep their cups safe…all in the name of charity. Since its inception some $450,000 have been donated. This year’s fortunate recipient was the Jennifer Lawrence Art Fund. Ms. J-Law is a Kentucky native: money went to fund art programs for kiddos in Greater Louisville.
Now, Darlings: Don’t think that just because the d-e-r-b-y is d-o-n-e, your chances of enjoying this delicious drink are dashed! With spring in full bloom and summer close behind, now is actually the perfect time to pull out your best julep game.
Here’s our best suggestion for an A-plus recipe, courtesy of our content director, food writer Jen Chase:
In past years, the version of the Kentucky Derby’s minty gem that’s been served as part of Woodford Reserve’s $1000 Julep Program has featured some untraditional add-ins that, in my opinion, help up-level this already classic cocktail. This year’s pour subbed out sugar for sorghum syrup—a distilled, molasses-like sweetener used throughout the South; but in 2016, the drink had a gorge hint of rose—thanks to candied rose petals and shaved rose ice—which really complemented the mint. Since most home mixologists might not have time for those thoughtful extravagances, this recipe lends a little floral romance with a lot less effort.
- 2 ounces bourbon (it’s not traditional but I prefer Amador)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
- 6 mint leaves, washed and dried well
- 1 teaspoon Levant rose water
- Crushed ice
- Slight pinch pink Himalayan sea salt (optional)
- 1 sprig of mint (garnish)
- Add mint leaves and dissolved sugar to a heavy-bottomed highball glass or julep cup, and muddle with a wooden or rubber muddler. (A spoon works well, too.)
- Add bourbon and (if using) the pinch of salt. Fill glass with crushed ice, and stir until the outside of the glass is frosted or at least noticeably cold.
- Just before serving, add the rose water, stir briefly just to combine, and garnish with mint.
So whether it’s for patio fun with fam and friends or to top off a meal that calls for something sweet to sip, not chew, this easy and crowd-pleasing bevvie will help you get to the finish line of any day. (And just like our brand here at Middy N’ Me…you can enjoy our julep to your heart’s content since #NoHorseNecessary.)