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Stirring Up a Julep for Derby Day | Listen

By: makenna.Kaminski

Mixing up a proper mint julep—and a few iterations—for the 150th Kentucky Derby

Since the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875, the race and the mint julep have been practically inseparable. The julep was once hailed as a breakfast drink, used for medicinal properties and to kickstart the day. After the Derby began, the drink was swept up into racing culture, introducing it to the cosmopolitan world.

The seemingly simple drink has plenty more to it than just bourbon and mint. As North of Bourbon’s bar manager Brad Jennings puts it, “There are proper ways to make a julep and improper ways.” According to the Louisville, Kentucky-based Jennings, proper preparation primarily relies on the drink’s dilution rate. He prefers to use Wild Turkey 101, though he jokes that due to youthful overindulgences, some may have sworn they would never touch it again. The strong bourbon is affordable, available, and pairs well with pellet ice, which dilutes it and smooths out any harsh flavors after the first sip. Then, of course, there’s the mint, which he says should be gently pressed instead of ground into the glass to avoid becoming bitter and astringent.

Jennings also shows us that a proper julep doesn’t always have to play by the rules—he transforms it with seasonal flavors and adapts for serving a crowd on race day, which he knows from experience can quickly get chaotic. The day “tends to get really informal by noon, [when] it’s pretty much just about getting something into a vessel where you can consume it.”

“To me, juleps are designed to be enjoyed from the bottom up, through a straw, to appreciate the aromas in the tin and allow the dilution created by the ice, which plays a significant role in the cocktail from first to last sip.”

North of Bourbon Mint Julep

Mint Julep

“Playing it close to the original recipe from the master of the julep, Tom Bullock, I wanted to make sure to insert sorghum as the sugar, due to its rich history in the Commonwealth and the South in general.”

North of Bourbon Strawberry Julep

Strawberry Julep

“Basil Hayden is a lower proof (80) bourbon, so it allows the strawberry and mint to shine while also allowing you to enjoy without getting inebriated too quickly.”

North of Bourbon Have Julep Will Travel cocktail

Have Julep, Will Travel

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  • Cheri Sias
    April 22, 2024 at 8:30 am

    I’m a chef I love the Palate recipes


    1. Amber Chase
      April 22, 2024 at 8:32 am

      That means the world to us, thanks, Cheri!