It’s the Kentucky Derby this weekend, folks, and while the mint julep has been associated with Churchill Downs since 1938, there are a couple of other legendary drinks that were created in the Bluegrass State that should never be overlooked, on this day or any other.
If you happen to have a bottle of bourbon or rye gathering dust at your place (shame on you), then now is the time to break it out and get mixing. Here are a few recipes and tips on how to make them like a pro.
The Mint Julep
Ironically, the first Saturday in May is a sad day for the mint julep at Churchill Downs, even though they sell well over 120, 000 of them. Sure, people drink them like water on Kentucky’s biggest day of the year. But truth be told — and I can speak from firsthand experience here — the juleps served up at the Derby are a sweet, watery mess. In fact, no one in Kentucky really drinks juleps at all, except on Derby Day.
The good news, however, is that you can easily make a great one yourself in the comfort of your home. All you need is a good quality, high-proof bourbon, some sugar, the freshest, most spritely mint you can find, and some crushed ice. It absolutely must be crushed ice. The drink may taste strong and sweet at first, but after only a few minutes, the ice will dilute and soften the drink and it will transform into a sublime and ambrosial mix that will be about as refreshing (and Southern) as you’ll find anywhere. Just remember to sip slowly — it’s a long day you have ahead of you.