The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on May 7, 2022—always the first Saturday in May, always at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The race is open to 20 horses, who qualified for the race by earning points on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. The clubhouse at Churchill Downs began mixing bourbon-based mint juleps around 1875. The Mint Julep became the racetrack’s signature drink in 1938, when the venue started to serve the drink in Kentucky Derby souvenir glasses.
In 1999, Wolford Reserve became the “official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby”—although we do have a Maker’s Mark recipe below, which makes enough for a crowd.
Today, the Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event. (The capacity of the track is 50,000 (x 2 days = 100,000 people to drink, so some revelers are not drinking their fair share!).
Mint Julep recipes are not just for the Kentucky Derby, but anytime you want a minty Bourbon cocktail with lots of shaved ice.
> Food Fun: Use your julep cups for food.
1. PREPARE the mint extract. Remove about 40 small mint leaves, wash, and place them in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Maker’s Mark and allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes.
Then, gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Then set aside.
2. PREPARE the simple syrup. Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
3. PREPARE the mint julep mixture. Pour 3½ cups of Maker’s Mark into a large glass pitcher. Pour the remaining whisky from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker’s Mark.
4. BEGIN to add the mint extract to the julep mixture a tablespoon at a time. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell it after each tablespoon is added.
You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose (a food taster’s trick is to inhale coffee beans or fresh-ground coffee to clear the nose).
The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste, generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think the balance is right…
5. POUR the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to marry the flavors.
6. TO SERVE: Fill each glass (ideally a silver Mint Julep cup) half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup.
Then insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup, so that the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the Mint Julep. When frost forms on the cup…