Derby Days

In Louisville, Kentucky the city’s abuzz with race horse professionals, enthusiasts and spectators alike. Today marks the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, where thoroughbreds from around the country race to win this time-honored tradition. The fastest two minutes in sports, wouldn’t be complete without a crowd of devout spectators—as fashionably forward as they are enthusiastic. Big hats, big bets, and a big affinity for a traditional southern beverage—the classic mint julep. Derby Day goes hand-in-hand with this simple, yet sophisticated libation. Though, I won’t be attending in person, I’ll be enjoying this race remotely, with my chilled cup in hand! Let’s savor the occasion with a few southern sips y’all.

Southern Mint Julep
This southern drink is smooth, refreshing and as classic as the Kentucky Derby itself! Enjoy during the race or on any hot summer day.
Serves: recipe for 1, 8oz drink
Prep time: 
Total time: 
What to get:
  • dozen fresh mint sprigs (some for making simple syrup & garnishing)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (for simple syrup)
  • 1 cup distilled water (for simple syrup)
  • 2 oz Kentucky Bourbon/per drink (I use Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon)
  • ½ oz water/drink
  • crushed ice
  • *silver julep cups, 8oz (optional)
What to do:
  1. Pre-chill metal or mint julep cups in freezer.
  2. Make simple syrup in small pan on stove by adding 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar with 3 mint sprigs, heating on low until sugar is dissolved, remove from stove & cool.
  3. In a pre-chilled cup add ½ oz of the mint simple syrup (strained), and several fresh mint leaves (smashing them inside bottom of cup with back of a spoon).
  4. Then add crushed ice to fill about ¾ way up glass.
  5. Next add 2 oz Kentucky bourbon and ½ oz water and a fresh mint sprig for garnish.
  6. Serve immediately, and repeat above for each drink.
This is a quick drink to make, and I like to make the mint simple syrup ahead and store remaining in the refrigerator. The leftover syrup also goes great in iced tea (I keep a sprig of mint in the syrup when storing). Crushed ice makes this drink, so if you don’t have crushed ice maker, I just crush some cubes with a rolling pin!

mint julep - 09

The ever-refreshing mint julep is the product of smooth Kentucky Bourbon, combined with the slightly-sweet spice of fresh mint leaves. Add a little sugar, some crushed ice, and we have a true winner. This concoction is perfect for cooling-off on a hot day—or to help you cope with all of the cash you just dropped to win-place-or-show—in either scenario, you’re sure to enjoy the day a little more. Luckily, this drink is easily assembled. Many make a version with granulated sugar, and others a simple syrup to sweeten the deal. I prefer to make a mint-infused simple syrup, and go heavy on the fresh mint garnish! A pre-chilled metal julep tumbler is a plus, and crushed ice an absolute must! You can use any quality bourbon whiskey, but in the spirit of being authentic, a Kentucky Bourbon is always my choice. I personally prefer a wheated bourbon over a rye (just because it is slightly softer and less sour), and in this case I chose Maker’s Mark, though there are many more expensive varieties I also fancy. This drink is served best on a hot day, in a very cold cup. Wait, is that the bugle call I’m hearing?!

Time to grab my julep & cross my fingers. Cheers to a great weekend, win or lose!

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Thank you for visiting the dinnervine! In the words of Julia Child, "People who love to eat, are always the best people," and I couldn't agree more. I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I did making them. Here's to creating new recipes and memories with friends & family, cheers! 

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