At the Kentucky Derby this weekend, there are only two certainties: thoroughbreds will run for the roses, and thousands standing on two feet will sip on bourbon smashed with mint. Jockeys and juleps are intrinsically linked in the culture of Churchill Downs. The classic Mint Julep has been the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby for more than a century, and each year, the demand calls for 1,000 pounds of fresh mint for muddling.
But if you can’t make it to the track to see Orb, Normandy Invasion or Goldencents vie for the prize, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the other half of the derby tradition. To help us better understand this Kentucky treasure, the cocktail crafters at downtown Louisville’s Proof on Main shared three different versions to try this weekend.
Proof On Main Mint Julep — The Classic
Mint leaves (enough so the glass is half full)
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz bourbon
Crushed ice to fill glass
In a rocks glass, lightly press on mint with a muddler or back of a spoon. Add simple syrup. Pack glass with crushed ice. Pour bourbon over ice. Garnish with extra mint sprig.
For The Birds
2 oz Pure Kentucky XO
1/4 oz Smith and Cross Rum
3/4oz simple syrup
1/2 pip Bitterman’s Mole Bitters
Muddle Mint with ¼ oz of simple syrup. Combine remaining ingredients with ice and stir. Double strain into coupe glass. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.
Julep Served “Up”
2 oz Larceny
1/2 oz simple syrup
Handful of mint
Splash of water
Combine all ingredients in tin and shake with ice. Strain into martini or coupe glass. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.