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Nothing says it's time for the Kentucky Derby quite like a flamboyant hat and an icy mint julep.
For those in need of a refresher on this refreshing tradition, the mint julep, a mixture of Kentucky bourbon, sugar, water and mint, became the official Derby cocktail in 1939 and is now as integral to the races as the horses.
The Kentucky Derby, a two-day, thoroughbred horse race that began in 1875, is held every year at a famous race track in Churchill Downs, Kentucky. A coterie of well-dressed viewers (everyone from Kim Kardashian to Queen Elizabeth II has been spotted at the races in previous years) watch from the stands — and at parties held at bars and homes across the country.
According to the Derby's list of traditions, the racetrack serves nearly 120,000 mint juleps during derby weekend (May 4 and 5). Bartenders go through 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.
While those watching the race from home won't be needing that much ice, we've got the most mouthwatering mint juleps to make your Kentucky Derby gathering as fabulous as your hat.
This mint julep is very similar to the classic recipe but has some extra-refreshing effervescence. It uses Maker's Mark bourbon, soda water, a cluster of fresh mint and a little sugar.
Give your julep some French flair by adding a splash of Champagne. This version is garnished with a lemon peel or strawberry for hint of fruitiness.
This single malt julep leaves out the soda and keeps things neat with a 16-year-old Lagavulin and a big fistful of mint.
Here's a great one for the kids — or a good stand-in when the bourbon runs out. A non-alcoholic version of the Kentucky Derby's favorite drink, this tart, mint lemonade has most of the same ingredients, without the booze.
This cocktail uses rye whiskey instead of bourbon and gets its sweetness from maple syrup. Bitters and fresh raspberries help highlight the minty profile of the classic cocktail. It's like a work of art in a cup.
They probably won't be drinking this in Kentucky but this version of a julep is a delicious way to enjoy the races! Made with Cognac, orange bitters and Angostura bitters, the flavor profile of this cocktail is more complex and smokier than your average julep.