Since 1938, the mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Out of all the traditions the race has had in its storied history, mint juleps are a clear favorite among fans and spectators. Hundreds of thousands of them are sold during Kentucky Derby weekend every year. And whether you are at a watch party or in the Churchill Downs infield, a mint julep is the perfect cocktail to drink on Derby Day.
A mint julep is very easy to make and consists of four key ingredients: bourbon, mint, sugar and water. The drink is typically served in a silver cup or pewter cup to complete its classy look. And given that 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is produced in Kentucky, mint juleps are a perfect representation of horse racing and the Bluegrass State.
So, how do you make a mint julep? There are many different recipes, and you can certainly add your own flare to one if you prefer. A basic recipe starts with packing ¾ of a cup with crushed ice. Then in a mixing glass, stir one teaspoon of sugar and ¼ cup of water until the sugar is dissolved. Then pour ¼ cup of your choice of bourbon into the mixed sugar water. Add 6-10 loose mint leaves or 1 ounce of mint syrup. Bring it all together by transferring the mix into the cup packed with ice. You can finish off the look by garnishing a sprig of mint and rose petal, and it’s best to sip with a straw to better mix the sugar and mint. Here is a video to help you learn how to make a mint julep.
But if you’re at Churchill Downs, how much does a mint julep actually cost? The majority of mint juleps you can find in the concessions are around $10. But if you are looking to be lavish, Kentucky bourbon distillery Woodford Reserve has $1,000 and $2,500 mint juleps served in limited-edition cups. Every year a jeweler designs the cups with different horse racing elements. In previous years, the cups have been silver- and gold-plated and featured prominent architecture from Churchill Downs such as the Twin Spires. All the proceeds from these luxury versions are donated to a different charity fund each year. This year’s cups will celebrate black jockeys and proceeds will be donated to Project to Protect African-American Turf History.
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