Tradition goes a long way in the South and recipes are no laughing matter. Passed down from generation to generation, the sanctity of some recipes is often more carefully maintained than antebellum architecture and more heavily guarded than Fort Knox. So, you might think no recipe would be more revered and remain more rigidly unchanged than the official drink of the Kentucky Derby: The Mint Julep. But hold on to your fascinators! The bourbon-based iconic cocktail of “the most famous two minutes in sports” isn’t as sacred as you might think. As a matter of fact, from 2006 through 2015 the Mint Julep served at Louisville’s majestic Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May wasn’t even made with bourbon: it was made with Early Times Kentucky whiskey. Oh, the scandal!
As a horse-owner and lover, the Derby is especially thrilling for me. Each year I look forward to the race and have friends and family over for a proper viewing-party. I love a traditional Mint Julep but this year I’m serving my own frosted interpretation of the classic and surprising my guests with two new Julep-inspired drinks to keep them happy and hydrated as we kick-off the summer season in style. While my friends have to wait until Saturday, I’m giving you a head start — recipes included — so you can plan a Derby party of your own that is guaranteed to land you in the winner’s circle!
Mint Juleps at the Derby are enjoyed over crushed ice, which is not easy to come by. This recipe creates a similar icy consistence without the hassle. The mint syrup imparts a strong mint flavor the classic can sometimes lack. The addition of brandy is a nod to President Teddy Roosevelt, who enjoyed Mint Juleps on the White House lawn served in these distinctive glass cups that resemble the pewter mugs of Churchill Downs tradition.
Barrel-aged bourbon is the pride of Kentucky, the residents of which often claim its invention. This riff on the Manhattan uses a semi-dry white vermouth, a slightly sweet herbal liqueur, in place of the traditional red vermouth and the dashes of mint bitters are a hat tip to the classic julep. If the Mint Julep and the Manhattan had a lovechild, it would be the Louisville…
To some Southerners, the julep is sacred as is, but in this recipe, I’ve switched it up and infused it with another point of Southern pride: peaches. Topped-off with Champagne, the delicious result is a sparkling cocktail that transcends its inspiration and is sure to become a new classic in the years to come.
Mark Addison’s entertaining expertise, along with his dynamic personal style, has made him a sought-after authority on cocktails and cutting-edge entertaining. His book, Cocktail Chameleon, features 144 signature re-interpretations of classic cocktails and was recently named “Best in the U.S.A. – Cocktail Book” by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. He has shared his ideas on, mixing signature cocktails and cooking for guests in more than 100 television appearances on national and regional TV shows as well as a being a regular contributor to print and on-line publications.
For the next three months we will be sharing recipes and ideas from Mr. Addison and we will be giving away a copy of his book (a $50 value) at the end of it.
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