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Cocktails

Mint julep is an easy, tasty way to celebrate Kentucky Derby

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The Old Forester Mint Julep recipe from Churchill Downs.
(Churchill Downs)

Few cocktails are more closely related to an event than the mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby. Each year, in the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks (the race just for fillies) and the Kentucky Derby, an estimated 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs Racetrack. The cocktail has been the traditional beverage of the Louisville, Ky., racetrack for nearly a century.

According to the event’s website, KentuckyDerby.com, that mind-boggling statistic requires more than 10,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.
This year, the Kentucky Oaks race is on Friday and the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is Saturday.

The cocktail mix is a fairly recent addition, and it makes it a breeze to serve mint juleps at home. But the old-school recipe isn’t at all difficult; it just requires a bit of planning. You need to make the simple syrup ahead of time, giving the mint time to infuse the syrup.

Here are both the current and the old-school versions of the iconic cocktail.

Old Forester Mint Julep

3 ounces Old Forester Mint Julep cocktail mix
3/4 ounce of simple syrup (commercial or homemade; see note)
8-10 mint leaves
Mint sprigs, for garnish

Pack a mint julep cup or small glass with crushed ice. In a mixing glass, combine bourbon cocktail mix, syrup and mint leaves. Lightly bruise mint leaves with a muddler and strain contents into julep cup. Garnish with 3 generous sprigs of mint. Insert a straw into ice near mint sprigs.

Note: To make your own simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, stirring often, then remove from heat and let cool.

Recipe courtesy of Churchill Downs and its official hospitality partner Levy.

Old-School Mint Julep

For mint simple syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
6-8 sprigs of fresh mint, plus more for garnishes

For one cocktail
Crushed ice
1 tablespoon mint simple syrup
2 ounces Old Forester or Early Times Kentucky whiskey

The night before you are planning to serve the mint juleps: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the simple syrup mixture in a covered container and add 6-8 sprigs of fresh mint. Refrigerate overnight.

To make one cocktail: Fill a mint julep cup or small glass with crushed ice, 1 tablespoon mint simple syrup and 2 ounces of whiskey. Stir with a bar spoon. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint.

Adapted from a recipe on KentuckyDerby.com.