The Kentucky Derby, otherwise known as the fastest two minutes in sports, is on tomorrow! It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious horse races in the US and has been held on the first Saturday in May since 1875. It’s the first race of the Triple Crown and one that is steeped in tradition. Some of these traditions include Derby glasses, women wearing their finest hats, men wearing outlandish suits, and the blanket of roses draped over the winner, which is one of the oldest traditions. Another tradition of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. It has been the official cocktail of the Derby since 1938! Each year almost 120,000 Mint Juelp’s have been served over the 2 day festivities surrounding one of the greatest horse races in the country. That is a shit ton of mint and Bourbon!
I love watching the races. As a horse lover, I am always blown away by the beauty of the amazing creatures that fly around that track. Its heart pounding excitement even if you aren’t cheering for a particular horse to win.
In honor of the event, we decided to put our own spin on the traditional Mint Julep. We made a Cherry and Lime Mint Julep. The original is a tasty cocktail for sure, but our creation is dangerously delicious! In our humble opinion…. We aren’t usually big on whiskey or bourbon, but this would be an easy cocktail to have way too many of!
(for a more traditional mint julep recipe, see below the recipe at the bottom of this post)
We made a simple syrup first that was infused with cherries and mint. We used the regular ratios of 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar and then added 1 cup of sour cherries and probably about 10 sprigs of mint. We simmered it until it reduced by ½ and was sticky and sweet with the scent of mint. I couldn’t help sneaking some of those cherries in my mouth as we waited! So yum!
We didn’t let our simple syrup sit overnight with the mint in it but I think the mint flavor would shine through even more if you did. Instead we muddled some fresh mint with the syrup and the bourbon and that gave us the minty flavor we were looking for. Then we filled our glasses with crushed ice, topped with club soda and the juice from a wedge of lime.
This one is definitely one we will be making again. Well we will! Tomorrow. Watching the Derby and cooking (we are always cooking)… Any horse lovers out there watching too?
Cherry & Lime Mint Julep
- FOR THE INFUSED SIMPLE SYRUP
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup sour cherries
- 2 cups mint (or at least 10 large sprigs) FOR THE COCKTAIL
- 1 oz cherry and mint infused simple syrup
- 2 oz bourbon
- 4 lime leaves
- 1/2 lime , juiced
- crushed ice to the top of the glass
- splash of club soda
- Make the simple syrup by combining all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the syrup is reduced and nice and sticky. Set aside to cool completely. Overnight if you can.
- Add the simple syrup, the bourbon, and the mint to a glass. Muddle the mint a bit.
- Add the juice of the lime.
- Fill the glass to the top with crushed ice.
- Top with club soda and garnish with a few cherries and a sprig of mint if you like.
In case you were curious about a more traditional Mint Julep, here are a couple recipes:
The Queen’s Julep
Recipe by Punch Room Head Mixologist Bob Peters
1.33 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
0.5 oz simple syrup
0.5 oz Fernet Branca Menta
8 fresh mint leaves, muddled
Preparation: Muddle mint leaves in a shaker. Pour Bulleit Bourbon, simple syrup and Fernet Branca Menta into shaker with ice and shake. Double strain and pour over crushed ice in a julep cup. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.
Modern Mint Julep
Recipe adapted by King Cocktail Dale DeGroff
1.33 oz Bulleit Bourbon
0.75 oz simple syrup or 1 tsp sugar
4 fresh mint leaves and a sprig of mint (use tender, young sprigs which last longer and look better)
Preparation: Prepare some very cold, very dry powdered ice by crushing chunks of ice inside a canvas ice bag. Bruise the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup with simple syrup or sugar. Add ice to the three quarter mark and add half of the bourbon. Stir to chill the julep cup. Top off with more powdered ice and the remaining bourbon. Continue to stir until the outside of the cup begins to freeze. Garnish with the mint sprig and set aside to rest while the julep cup freezes over on the outside. Pick up carefully to imbibe.