Due to the weirdness that is our year of the pandemic, the 146th Kentucky Derby did not run on the first Saturday in May. Rather, it is running tomorrow — the first Saturday in September. My husband and I are both native Kentuckians, so by law (probably), we are duty bound to celebrate the Derby, no matter where we are or when the dang thing is held, so tomorrow we will park ourselves in front of the TV with mint juleps in hand donning hats and seersucker, because that’s just what we do. The folks at Churchill Downs (which many of you know also own the Fairgrounds here in New Orleans) have a full day of fun and fabulous virtual programming planned, so we can all Derby At Home with style and sass. It’ll certainly be beyond peculiar to watch the race without fans dressed to the nines, strutting their stuff in the grandstands or partying like it’s Mardi Gras in the infield, but like everything else this year, let’s make the best of it.
In that spirit, here’s my mint julep recipe. I’ve shared this cocktail with fellow Kentuckians, Texans and Louisianians over the years at our many Kentucky Derby parties in the various cites we’ve called home. As a rule, I make the first one for each guest, then leave them to it after that with the directions posted near all of the ingredients. I always warn everyone to avoid letting Mark make a julep for them, unless they are keen to have to lie down and sleep it off. His is not a two-ounce pour when it comes to the bourbon.
Melanie’s Sweet Minty Julep
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup (I like to infuse mine with mint while making it)
- 6 to 8 mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon (Elijah Craig is our house fave, but yours will work, too)
- Mint sprig
In a Julep cup or Tom Collins glass, gently muddle mint and syrup. Add bourbon and pack tightly with ice (crushed is used traditionally, but use what you have on hand). Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside. Top with more ice and garnish with mint sprig.
Alcohol Free Option
For teetotalers and those abstaining for any reason, I highly recommend mint-infused simple syrup iced tea served in a Julep or Tom Collins glass.
We’ve hosted and attended enough Derby house parties to know that if you dress in your Derby best, place those bets online, at the off-track betting parlor or set up a home betting pool, cook up some cheese grits and other fixin’s and mix up a julep or two, that you will have a ball — guaranteed.
Have a happy Derby Day, y’all! Cheers!