Posts Tagged “kentucky derby”

Making Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby

On the first Saturday in May, Louisville is besieged with visitors that have come to witness the most prestigious thoroughbred horse race in America. From a birds-eye view, Churchill Downs Race Track becomes a moving flotilla of expressive hats showing a flash of silver cups.

Surrounding a dirt race track are stands full of race enthusiasts, socializing as they wait to see who is going to become the winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown trifecta.

This “Run for the Roses” race is full of traditions that date back to 1875. It has run every year since. Three-year-old papered thoroughbreds gather to race a mile and a quarter for the most exciting two minutes in American sports.

Crowds fill the infield singing “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Foster during the post parade, then toast the winner with the traditional Mint Julep libation. The late afternoon sun sparkles on the specially designed silver Mint Julep cups as race traditions are upheld.

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Moscow Mules for the Kentucky Derby

Moscow Mules for the Kentucky Derby

Since 1875, the Kentucky Derby has enthralled spectators from around the world, making it the oldest continuous sporting event in America. You needn’t have a stake in the outcome or even know much about thoroughbred horse racing to get swept up in the excitement. An appreciation for boozy Southern drinks and outrageous hats will suffice.

The big event is all over in a couple of minutes, so start your celebration early.

Refreshing Moscow Mule in Copper Mug, Engraved

Refreshing Moscow Mule in Copper Mug, Engraved

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Mint Juleps & The Kentucky Derby

The Mint Julep:  Born In The South, Thriving At The Derby

Mint Julep

Since 1938, the mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and it’s hard to imagine a cocktail more

quintessentially Southern. A combination of sugar, bourbon, crushed ice and mint, this refreshing drink conjures up images of a bygone genteel era. There are over 120,000 of these drinks served at the race each year, and even people at home get in the spirit of the event by mixing their own.

What you may not know, however, is that the history of the mint julep stretches far beyond the Derby, and the drink we all know and love has changed quite a lot over the years.

Early History of the Mint Julep

 

The mint julep has a history steeped in legend, with multiple origin stories told and believed throughout the region. Some fanciful tales suggest that the drink was developed when a Kentuckian, boating across the Mississippi, plucked fresh mint leaves growing wild on the banks and topped his bourbon with them.
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History of the Mint Julep

History of the Mint Julep

The Mint Julep Cocktail has been promoted by Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby since 1938. In a contract arrangement between the Brown-Forman Corporation and Churchill Downs, the Mint Julep Cocktail was designated “official drink of the Kentucky Derby”. Each year almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, virtually all of them in specially made Kentucky Derby collectible cups.

A Traditional Drink

The term “Julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.  A Mint Julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint leaf, bourbon, sugar and water. Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used in southern states. This mint and sugar combo is very similar to a mojito.

The Mint Julep Cup

The Mint Julep Cup is very popular throughout the South, and has long been a symbol of achievement, esteem, and prestige. For over 200 years

Mint Julep Cups

Mint Julep Cups

Americans have used their Julep cups at events like christenings, weddings, fairs and of course, the races.  Traditionally, Mint Juleps cups are made in sterling silver, silverplate, or pewter. These cups are held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup, as this allows frost to form on the outside of the cup.

Many of the southern states have their own unique and distinctive cup styles, including Classic, Beaded, and Threaded. Best known is the Classic style from Kentucky; the Classic American beaker was remade into a Julep Cup with a straight body lines and graceful moldings at the base and rim. This Kentucky Mint Julep Cup originates from early American Silversmiths and craftsmen Asa Blanchard of Lexington and William and Archibald Cooper of Louisville.  Nowadays, these  styles are manufactured by the world’s most prestigious silversmiths like Godinger, Empire, and Reed & Barton.

Here are a few links to recipes for different Mint Juleps.  As we approach the Kentucky Derby this year, perhaps you might want to join in the tradition and enjoy a frosty Mint Julep!