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Derby Day Cocktail Guide

When he was covering the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s Monthly in 1970 Hunter S. Thompson described the event as being “decadent and depraved.” We’d like to think that any self-respecting derby party would strive two bring those two elements to the table. While you’re going to have to provide your own depravity we’ve got the decadence covered with this recipe for the perfect Modern Mint Julep and a few other cocktails that will help ease the pain when your favorite horse finishes 40 lengths back.

King Cocktail Dale DeGroff showed us the proper way to make a julep in the Inkedmag offices this morning. DeGroff taught us that the key elements that make up a fantastic are the proper ice (cold and dry) and being delicate with the mint leaves (don’t smash them!). DeGroff also encourages using a bourbon with a high rye content since they aren’t as sweet as bourbons made from wheat; with all of the sugar in a julep you don’t need any more sweetness. You also don’t want to go cheap with the bourbon.

“I’ve reached a point in my life where I only have so many drinks left,” DeGroff says with a laugh. “I don’t have time to drink bad juleps.”


MINT JULEP Modern *by Dale DeGroff


· 1.3 oz Bulleit Bourbon

· 0.75 oz Simple syrup or a teaspoon sugar

· 4 Mint leaves and a sprig of Mint (Use tender, young sprigs- last longer and look better)

Preparation: Prepare some very cold very dry powdered ice with chunks of ice and a canvas ice bag. Bruise the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup with sugar syrup. Add ice to the three quarter mark and half of the bourbon. Stir to chill the julep cup. Top off with more powdered ice and the remaining bourbon and continue to stir until the outside of the cup begins to freeze. Garnish with the mint sprig and set aside to rest while the julep cup freezes over on the outside. Pick up carefully to imbibe.

While the straightforward julep is delectable by the time you have attended the Run for the Roses for a 140th straight year you might be in the mood for a little twist on the famous drink. Here is a recipe that harkens back to the roots of the julep before bourbon became the base of the beverage.

The Mint Julep 1862

The Mint Julep 1862

MINT JULEP 1862 from How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas * Adapted by Dale DeGroff


· 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

· 2 Tablespoons water

· 3 sprigs fresh mint

· 1.3 oz Cognac

· 2 Dashes high quality rum

Preparation: Dissolve the sugar into the water in a tall glass or a silver chalice julep cup. Add the mint and press gently in the sugared water to extract the flavor; remove the sprigs and set aside for the garnish. Add the cognac and then fill with powdered ice. Place the mint into the drink stem side down and dash with the rum. Set the drink aside for five minutes to frost.

This third beverage sticks a little closer to the mint julep that you are familiar with but gives it a unique twist.

The Whiskey Smash

The Whiskey Smash

WHISKEY SMASH “A Smash is Julep on a small plan” Jerry Thomas 1862 * Adapted by Dale DeGroff


· 1.3 oz Bulleit Bourbon

· 4 mint leaves and one sprig of mint

· Lemon wheel

· Cut a lemon in half then quarter and use three of the quarters in the drink

· 1-ounce simple syrup

Preparation: Muddle all ingredients except whiskey in a bar glass. Add whiskey and shake with ice. Strain into an ice filled rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of mint and a lemon wheel.

While everyone hopes that their horse will be draped in roses by the end of the day we’re guessing that if you’ve spent your derby party drinking these delicious cocktails you’ll be in a good mood either way.