Cigar Aficionado

Mint Julep Odds on Derby Favorite

Tomorrow marks the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, American horse racing's most prestigious competition, with the winner still in question. But we can already count one sure winner in this race that unveils a fresh champion every year: the Mint Julep, the event's official cocktail.

In fact, Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, which is the official drink, is already predicting that 120,000 mint juleps made with their spirit will be served at the Churchill Downs venue before the Derby Week is done.

The Julep is a traditional Southern drink made with Kentucky whiskey-typically Bourbon-mint leaves, sugar and crushed iced (see below for recipe) and has unwaveringly been the drink of the Derby since 1938. Other horse races-the Preakness and the Belmont-have official cocktails, but they have changed over the years. Of course, milk has long been the drink associated with the month of May's other outstanding race, the Indianapolis 500, but that is not as inspiring.

The operative concept here is, of course, Kentucky whiskey, which employs the same limestone rich waters that nourish the state's racehorses. Even if your taste for sweets deserts you after one or two Juleps, you can always decamp to straight Bourbon to get you through the "most exciting two minutes in sports."

Search our library for more on the whiskey and then consider the following recipe (or this alternative) for making the drink itself.

Louisville's Seelbach Hotel Mint Julep

Mint Julep

- 2 sprigs plus 5 leaves fresh mint (picked that morning when possible, Kentucky colonel mint preferred, fresh peppermint if unavailable)

- 1 tsp. simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled together until a clear syrup is formed)

- 2 oz. Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon

Place syrup in bottom of julep cup or highball glass. Fill with crushed ice. Place 5 fresh mint leaves on top of ice. Bruise mint with the back of a spoon to release the fresh mint oils. Fill glass to the brim with bourbon. Stir. Garnish with sprig of mint and dust second mint sprig with powdered sugar for additional garnish. Serve with two straws, cut short enough to extend about two inches above the cup, giving the aroma as well as the flavor of the mint when drinking.

"Great time drinking mint julep at a post derby party here on St Louis. Loved it." —May 18, 2011 23:44 PM