Derby is a time of joyous celebration in Louisville and beyond. Sure, we start the party about a month out, but who’s counting?
So it startles me every time I see hate rear its ugly head and project its vitriol toward the legendary mint julep. What did a mint julep ever do to you?
It’s put smiles on millions of faces for decades, and Churchill Downs alone serves up more than 120,000 of them during Derbytime. In fact, it’s been the drink of choice at Churchill Downs since 1938, so take that and shove it down your mint-hating pie hole.
I’m not saying the mint juleps served at the racetrack are the epitome of what the cocktail can be. They’re far from it, especially since it’s usually pre-batched and made quickly for the masses.
But if you slow things down — you know, the Southern way — and make one at home using your favorite bourbon, I bet you’ll see this drink in a new light.
If you don’t feel like playing bartender, then go hit up one of our many fabulous cocktail bars for their take on the mint julep. Some that come to mind are Proof on Main, La Chasse (which just won the Four Roses Rose Julep contest), Bourbons Bistro, Taj, Meta, Martini’s Italian Bistro, Jockey Silks, and the list goes on and on.
I love introducing newbies to the mint julep, and I also like trying to convert haters, too. Let’s face it: The mint julep is the “Grey’s Anatomy” of drinks — it will never be canceled, nor should it.
One of my favorite recipes — which I’ll be making feverishly on Saturday at some friends’ Derby parties — is the chocolate mint julep. It’s as tasty and decadent as a Thin Mint, with a little bite in the back for good measure. There’s still time to gather up all the ingredients, so get to it! Your guests will thank you.
Bar Belle’s Chocolate Mint Julep
1 1/2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon
(Use one that’s at least 100 proof or higher; I recommend Old Forester 100 Proof, Four Roses Single Barrel, or Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond)
1/2 oz. Ballotin Chocolate Mint Whiskey
(Can be found at Liquor Barn, Total Wine, etc.)
1 oz. Simple Syrup
(Just mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boom!)
Fill up a glass with crushed ice. In a separate mixing glass, throw in your bourbon, Ballotin and simple syrup with some mint and lightly muddle the mint. Swirl for 20 seconds, then pour over ice. Add a mint sprig as a garnish.