When you hear the Call to the Post trumpeting late in the afternoon of the first Saturday each May, it is heralding “The Run for the Roses”, the Kentucky Derby!  This most famous horse race in America takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky where it has been run every year since 1875.  Not unlike major events (think parties) in our own state there are several traditions involving music, food, and, naturally, booze.  As the horses parade before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home.  Traditional food like Burgoo, a thick stew, and Hot Browns, a really yummy (think cheese sauce and bacon) open face sandwich, are served.  For the cocktail, it is the Mint Julep that is the Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby.

MINT JULEP (Tall Rocks Glass will do if you do not have a Silver Cup)

8 – Large Mint Leaves

1 – Simple Syrup

3 – Bourbon

Garnish – Mint Sprig

  • Simple Syrup is made by dissolving sugar in an equal volume of water

Over-fill your silver cup with crushed ice, make a little snowball.  While your snowball chills the cup, combine your ingredients in another glass and muddle gently.  Master Intoxicologist Tip:  Mint is very delicate, do not smash it to smithereens.  If you massage the leaves with your muddler, you will release the wonderful, aromatic nature of the plant; over muddling will release an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Let this nectar sit for a moment to infuse the flavors while you contemplate your Derby wagers.  Strain into your serving cup leaving the mint behind.  Garnish.  To enjoy your potent potable, hold the cup by the top and bottom edges only to preserve the frost.

Master Intoxicologist Tip:  Crushed ice is critical in this cocktail versus full cubes.  Since this drink is mostly bourbon, the water resulting from the more quickly melting crushed ice is an active and important ingredient.


One Mint Julep

This tune was written by Rudy Toombs and became a hit for The Clovers in 1952.  He was hired by Atlantic Records to write humorous, up-tempo rhythm and blues novelty songs.  The early Fifties humor here is in part the idea of a young black man getting drunk on mint juleps, thought of as an aristocratic southern white drink.  The song reached a mass audience in 1961 when Ray Charles's instrumental version – featuring Ray on Hammond B-3 organ – reached number 1 on the R&B charts and also number 8 on the pop chart.