This Sept. 5, the Kentucky Derby is coming back for its 146th year — but it’s going to look pretty different. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Churchill Downs Racetrack won’t be hosting fans for the famous horse race this year, but you can always mix up your own mint julep at home while watching the event on NBC.
Mint juleps have been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. The simple drink is typically mixed up using four ingredients — mint, simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice — and it’s traditionally served in a shiny metal cup. Kentucky is known as the birthplace of bourbon, and it’s home to some of the world’s best bourbon brands (many of which you can visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail), so it makes sense that one of the state’s biggest annual events would use this liquor as the base for its signature — and extremely popular — cocktail. In fact, nearly 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby weekend every year.
There’s another reason to mix up a mint julep at home this September: It’s Bourbon Heritage Month, so making this classic cocktail is the perfect way to celebrate two events in one from the comfort of your home. Woodford Reserve, the presenting sponsor of this year’s Kentucky Derby, shared two mint julep recipes with Travel + Leisure. The first is a classic mint julep, and the second is the Diane Crump Blackberry Mint Julep, named for the first female jockey who rode in the Kentucky Derby 50 years ago. In previous years, Woodford Reserve sold $1,000 mint juleps served in collectible silver cups at the race to raise money for charity; this year, they’re offering the limited-edition cups online to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Classic Mint Julep Recipe
- 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 3 fresh mint leaves
- Crushed ice
Instructions: Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass. In the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir, and garnish with more ice, fresh mint, and powdered sugar.
Diane Crump Blackberry Mint Julep Recipe
- 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 1 bar spoon of blackberry preserves
- 1 bar spoon of simple syrup
- Mint bitters
- Fresh blackberries and mint sprigs, for garnish
- Crushed ice
Instructions: At the bottom of a mint julep cup, mix blackberry preserves and simple syrup. Add two to four dashes of mint bitters. Fill two-thirds of the cup with crushed ice, and add sipping straw and bourbon. Top off the cup with more crushed ice (packed in). Top with fresh blackberries and a sprig of mint to garnish. Put the mint near the straw, so the smell enhances each sip.
Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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