The Derby Day Drink

At the Run for the Roses, expect lots of dapper getups and mint juleps.

This Saturday, thousands of Derby fans—many donning their best seersucker suits and (for the ladies) their showiest Derby hats—will alight on Kentucky's Churchill Downs racing grounds to watch some of world's finest and fastest equine specimens run for the roses. While wagering on the contenders is always a game of chance, one certainty holds—most of the dapper spectators will be drinking mint juleps, the official beverage of the race (though, in 2009, probably not a lot of the $1,000 mint juleps offered by Woodford Reserve Bourbon). Composed of Bourbon, mint leaves and simple sryup, this refreshing warm-weather cocktail is thought to have originated in the southern U.S., sometime in the eighteenth century; the famed Kentucky politician Henry Clay was responsible for bringing it northward, when he introduced the julep to Washington D.C.'s Round Robin Bar, during his tenure as U.S. senator. If you're unable to make it down to Churchill Downs this year and want to recreate some derby energy at home, below is an updated version of Clay's recipe, provided by current Round Robin barmaster Jim Hewes.

Southern Style Mint Julep
Courtesy of Jim Hewes, Round Robin Bar, Washington, D.C.          

2 oz. Maker's Mark Bourbon
1 tsp. sugar
Branch water
8-10 red-stem mint leaves
Freshly cracked ice
Directions: Muddle mint leaves, a small measure of bourbon and sugar in a tall glass
tumbler, add small amount of cracked ice and stir, refill with remaining ice.
Top with rest of the bourbon and branch water and re-stir.  Garnish with
fresh mint and a zest of lemon, dust with sugar. 


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