It is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country, and for 146 years, the Kentucky Derby has been fascinating horse racing enthusiasts. Affectionately called the “Run for the Roses” and “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” the Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May, and celebrated with “Derby Parties” from coast to coast. Tradition is key here, and one of the most celebrated traditions is the official drink of the Derby- the mighty Mint Julep.
In fact, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. That’s a lot of mint and bourbon.
The drink is clearly a Southern passion. In a letter written in 1906, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. actually refused to give the recipe to the superintendent of the US Military Academy, calling the cocktail “the nectar of the gods,” and declaring “it is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician nor a Yankee!” Times may have changed but the tradition continues.
What’s In A Name?
Although it’s linked to the South, and the Derby, the Julep’s name has its roots in the Arab world. The Julep began centuries ago as an Arabic drink called the “julab,” which was made from water and rose petals. As the julab migrated to the Mediterranean, that region's indigenous mint replaced the rose petals.
The Mint Julep has been served in the South since the early 1700s, and Churchill Downs began mixing them in 1875. Mint Juleps became the track's signature libation in 1938 when the management began charging 75 cents for the drink and the small glass vessel it came in. The drink and glass now cost $11.
Uncle Terry's Mint Julep Recipe
- 2 Parts Bourbon
- 2 parts Bootlegger Mix
- 1 (4-inch) cocktail straw or coffee stirrer
- Fresh mint sprig to garnish
What exactly is a Uncle Terry Mint Julep? It’s a perfect adult thirst quencher with a Kentucky bourbon base, bootlegger mix, and mint. And, lots of ice.
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