In honor of the Kentucky Derby this weekend, we've reached out to some of the most respected drinking establishments in the country to round up the best tricks and tips for making a Derby staple: The mint julep. Below you'll find five recipes for different juleps, so get out your giant hats and your pocketbooks, because we're going to the races.
Barber of Seville Julep
Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY
Bartender Will Elliott of the Maison Premiere bar in Brooklyn gives us a few tips for your juleps:
Something that often gets overlooked, even by liquor companies, is that you’re not supposed to taste the mint. The mint is an aromatic element. Bartenders should place the straws right in the bouquet of mint, [so you can smell it but not taste it]. Some people use other herbs, more savory herbs, etc. They’re all aromatic features. If you have friends over and you’re serving juleps, it’s always a nice touch to put it in the freezer for a moment before you serve it, and it will develop this nice frost on the outside. The julep is the one time where you would only ever touch the glass by the lip of the glass. You don’t want your fingerprints messing with the frosted outside.
- 3 dashes of orange bitters
- half a teaspoon of orange flower water
- half ounce of Old Overholt rye whiskey
- .75 oz amaro cappelletti (or aperol)
- 1 oz Manzanilla or fino sherry
- fill with cracked or crushed ice
- stir or swizzle
- top with orange zest and candied almonds
The Classic Julep (an adult snow cone)
The Silver Dollar, Louisville, KY
Susie Hoyt from the Silver Dollar bar in Louisville has some recommendations for storing the mint:
Mint can be delicate so it needs to be stored properly to prevent wilting. It's tough to leave mint out on the bar on a hot day, but it can work if you are going through it fast enough. I recommend putting cold water in the bottom of an old fashioned glass and propping the mint up like a bouquet. Sometimes we'll even throw an ice cube or two in the bottom to keep the water very cold. If the temperature is very warm or the mint is not being used regularly, it needs to be left it in the cooler.
- Slap 5-7 mint leaves and use a bar spoon to pull the mint leaves up the side of the Julep tin. You'll get a really great aroma from the mint oil.
- Discard the mint leaves to prevent any grassy/vegetal notes that come from leaving mint inside the tin.
- Add 1 oz Demerara syrup and 2 oz Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon (100 is a great proof for this drink, because you need your bourbon to stand up to the crushed ice and dilution that comes with this cocktail)
- Give this mixture a quick stir
- Add crushed ice to fill the tin halfway.
- After a quick swizzle with the spoon, fill the tin to the top with crushed ice and pack it down so it's level with the top of the tin.
- Add a snow cone of crushed ice to the top and pack it down
- Tap one large mint sprig or two medium sprigs to release the oil and place the garnish at the edge of the glass touching the straw. The effervescent mint aroma is key for the Mint Julep.
Kentucky Mint Julep from Mable's Smokehouse
Mable's Smokehouse, Brooklyn, NY
"But hey, I like mint! I want to taste it, not just smell it." Then this julep is for you -- a very traditional mint julep from Meghan Love at Mable's Smokehouse in New York. Love grew up in Louisville and her family has been making Juleps for a long time. When I asked Love about their special touch, she said, "We cook the simple syrup with mint for about 2 hours at a low temperature so the syrup really diffuses with the flavor of the mint."
As for bourbon, Love recommends Old Forrester: "It's not fancy or high-end in any way. It's what everyone drinks in Kentucky -- Old Fo.' They don't have it many places in New York."
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz simple syrup
- Don’t ever shake it , just chill it with the simple syrup and muddling in some fresh mint as well
- Stir that over ice, then strain it over the crushed ice into a high ball glass or a rock glass – 8 or 9 oz
- Garnish with a pretty piece of mint
Grey Goose Oaks Lily
Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY
We go off-itinerary to bring you a drink served right at Churchill Downs by Levy Restaurants.
The day before The Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks takes place. The Oaks is for thoroughbred fillies, and the Grey Goose Oaks Lily is the official drink of the race. Proceeds from this year's sales of the Oaks Lily will go to Bright Pink, a national non-profit focused on breast and ovarian cancer prevention.
- 1 oz. Grey Goose vodka
- 1 oz. sweet and sour mix
- 3 oz. cranberry Juice
- Splash of triple sec
Chef's Notes: Once the ingredients are mixed, place the Grey Goose Oaks Lily in a tall glass with crushed ice, add a straw and garnish with fruit.
'21' Triple Crown
21 Club, New York, NY
Feeling a little fancier than your basic julep? The Triple Crown from the 21 Club lets you level up. The 21 Club in New York is famous for the ornamental jockeys on their building:
Standing guard on the balcony about the the entrance to '21' is a group of jockeys, all donated by some of the best-known stables in American thoroughbred racing. Sportsman, entrepreneur and long-time patron, Jay van Urk, presented '21' with its first jockey in the early 1930s and his quirky ‘present’ soon caught on with similar donations from the likes of the Vanderbilt, Mellon and Ogden Mills Phipps families. There are a total of 33 jockeys on the exterior of the building, and 2 more inside the doors.
- 1 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
- 1⁄2 oz. Mount Gay Rum
- 1⁄4 oz. Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
- 1⁄4 oz. Peach Schnapps
- 1⁄4 oz each Orange, Cranberry, Lemon, and Lime Juices
- Splash Mint Simple Syrup
- Dash Peychaud's Bitters
- Float 7Up Soda
- Garnish with Lime
- Place all ingredients in a shaker, and shake vigorously.
- Pour into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a lime.
Blackberry Mint Julep from Bay Kitchen Bar
Bay Kitchen Bar, East Hampton, NY
Bay Kitchen Bar is a new restaurant in East Hampton, and they offer a fruity take on the classic julep:
- 2oz Bulleit Bourbon
- 1/2oz Chambord
- 3/4oz fresh lime
- 1/2 oz Demerara syrup
- 5 muddled blackberries
- 6 mint leaves
Mix all ingredients in a shaker and pour over crushed ice. Garnished with sprig of mint and a blackberry.
The Extra Mustard Julep
Extra Mustard HQ, New York, NY Do not make this drink.
- Lifesavers Pep-O Mint (individually wrapped)
Mix equal parts bourbon and mustard. Garnish with Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint. Serve over ice. We're sorry.