Cigar Aficionado

The Run for the Juleps

It's the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby Saturday, and you can bet that any Bourbon man worth his salt, or his corn, rye (substitute winter wheat in the case of Maker's Mark) and barley will be at Churchill Downs sipping Mint Juleps (upwards of 2,000 gallons for the event).

Bourbon makers note on Derby Day that their spirit is not only the nectar of Kentucky, but that the same limestone-rich water that makes it so pure is the very thing that builds strong bones in the state's race horses. Spirit maker Brown Forman, which has recently entered the horse-racing game with the creation of its own stables, will attend for the seventh year in a row as the official Bourbon of the Derby (Woodford Reserve) and the official drink (Early Times Mint Julep).

One Bourbon man who will notably be absent, however, is Tom Bulliet, founder of Bulliet Bourbon. Mr. Bulliet will be at the Park Avenue Country Club in Manhattan, celebrating the arrival in New York State of his family recipe whiskey, which is recently widening its distribution in the United States after years of limited availability.

Mr. Bulliet resurrected his family recipe (rich in rye at 28 percent) almost two decades ago, and now through the stewardship of present owner, Diageo, it is more accessible across the country (visit

This is all a long-winded way of saying: you don't have to be at the Derby to enjoy Mint Juleps. What follows is the official Mint Julep recipe of Louisville's Seelbach Hotel, which itself serves about 60 gallons on Derby Day:


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.

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