It’s almost the first Saturday in May, time to don your most flowery hat or seersucker suit and unpack those silver julep cups. The 138th Kentucky Derby horse race will be running at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
You don’t have to be a horse racing buff to enjoy the celebration — or even be in Kentucky. More than a two-minute sporting event, the Kentucky Derby also is about fashion, sipping mint juleps and partying. Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail, representing the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, will be one of the 19 award-winning chefs participating in Thursday’s Taste of Derby, the official Kentucky Derby party of Churchill Downs. He’ll serve Tabasco-Cured Royal Red Shrimp Wtih Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes.
Plan your own Derby Day party. Serve The Brown Hotel’s savory Hot Brown sandwiches or the Bluegrass State’s official dish, the slow-simmering Kentucky Burgoo, a cross between a hearty soup and a stew. Wash it all down with a mint julep.
So, what exactly is a mint julep? Ice, bourbon, sugar and mint, along with proper prep, goes into the iconic drink that has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for almost a century. However, there are slight variations on the drink.
The “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” is Woodford Reserve, a product of the Brown-Forman Corp. crafted at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky., in the heart of thoroughbred country.
But, Early Times Kentucky Whisky says its Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail is “The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby.” Each year, almost 120,000 of its ready-to-serve mint juleps are served over the two-day Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack.
Maker’s Mark, a premium Kentucky bourbon handcrafted at the world’s oldest operating bourbon distillery, also offers a recipe. Rob Samuels, eighth-generation distiller and grandson of Maker’s Mark founder Bill Samuels Sr., has shared his family’s personal recipe for The Perfect Mint Julep.