As the Kentucky Derby rolls around each year, a number of new takes on the Mint Julep are released. It's no surprise because it is the race's signature cocktail. Among all these recipes, those from Woodford Reserve shine.
Each Woodford Reserve Mint Julep recipe is unique and innovative, created by some of the top mixologists working today. The recipes feature one of one of the brand's impressive bourbons and they're fun to explore year after year.
The 2017 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep Recipe
Published April 10, 2017
The theme of the 2017 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep is decidedly British. Why is that when the Kentucky Derby is an all-American event? The answer is quite simple and it draws on the history of cinematography as well as horse racing.
The drink was created by Woodford Reserve's U.K. Brand Ambassador, Tom Vernon. When creating the recipe, he wanted to pay tribute to the 1872 Epsom Derby. This is the greatest British horse race and the predecessor of modern horse races, including the Kentucky Derby.
Add to this recognition of British-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge. In the 1870's, his photographs captured animals in motion and were groundbreaking at the time. Notable among these was "The Horse in Motion." This was the first evidence that all four hooves of a horse leave the ground at once during a gallop.
Now that you understand the connection, let's look at the fascinating drink. This Mint Julep is truly unique and features British icons of the beverage world: Pimm's Cup, elderflower cordial, and Earl Grey tea. It comes together like no other drink and is an absolute delight.
- Rub mint around the julep glass, expressing the essential oils. Discard the mint.
- Add remaining ingredients and top with crushed ice.
- Churn using a bar spoon to distribute the flavor, then top with more crushed ice.
- Garnish with a bundle of baby's breath and mint. Sprinkle with dehydrated, edible blue cornflowers.
- Woodford Reserve Mint Julep Simple Syrup is produced by Bourbon Barrel Foods. Essentially, it uses demerara sugar rather than white to give drinks a deep richness. If you cannot find it, feel free to make your own using the standard simple syrup recipe.
- Earl Grey Bitters is a fascinating tea-flavored bitters. You'll find a bottle available from 18.21 Bitters. At some point, you may be interested in using Earl Grey in your homemade bitters recipe as well.
- Elderflower cordial is a non-alcoholic drink that is popular in the U.K. You can choose to make your own if you have an abundance of spring elderflowers in bloom. Otherwise, there are a number of brands that make lovely cordials. In a pinch, you can even use St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
The $1,000 Mint Julep Cup
If you're headed to the race, Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and offers the $1,000 Mint Julep Cup annually. These are signature gold- and silver-plated cups sold in limited editions to benefit the year's selected charity.
The julep cups typically go on sale mid-April through WoodfordReserveMintJulep.com. They tend to sell out fast and must be picked up at Churchill Downs the day of the race.
Fun Fact: Woodford Reserve also releases a limited edition Kentucky Derby bottle each year. They are adorned with great graphics and horse racing fans will find these fun to collect.
The 2016 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep Recipe
Published April 28, 2016
The signature Mint Julep for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby was created by NYC-based mixologist Julie Renee Williams. What helps this julep recipe stand out is the toasted pecan orgeat. It's a fun DIY project and actually quite easy to make and gives this julep a nutty flavor.
To make this drink: Rub fresh mint around a julep cup.
Combine 2 ounces Woodford Reserve with 3/4 ounce toasted pecan orgeat syrup* and crushed ice inside the cup. Swizzle it to mix and add more crushed ice. Garnish with a small bunch of fresh mint, caramelized pecan crumbles, and edible copper flakes.
Note: Edible copper flake is not the easiest thing to find. Gold flake is readily available and often found in the cake decorating section of your local store.
*Toasted Pecan Orgeat Syrup. Orgeat syrup is an almond-flavored sweetener that we use quite often in cocktails. This homemade pecan orgeat is very similar and uses toasted pecans instead of almonds. It can be added to a variety of drinks beyond this julep.
To make the syrup: Toast 2 cups of pecans, then mix or muddle them into small pieces. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the pecans to a saucepan and simmer on low heat to create a nut milk. Fine strain or use a nut milk bag to remove the nut pieces. Then add 1 1/2 cups sugar.
Don't want to DIY? El Guapo Bitters creates a Creole Orgeat Spiced Pecan Syrup that would make a good substitute.
The 2015 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Recipe
Published: April 28, 2015
The 2015 Mint Julep recipe was created by mixologist Pamela Wiznitzer. It is just different enough from the original to be really interesting. It features the brand's Double Oaked bottling, which, as the name implies, is aged twice. The second round uses barrels that are "deeply toasted before a light charring," leaving the already great bourbon a deeper, sweeter oak flavor.
To make the drink: Combine 2 ounces Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, 3/4 ounce coconut palm sugar syrup*, and 2 sprigs of chocolate mint in a cocktail shaker and shake well. In a julep glass, place 3 sprigs of mint at the bottom and top with crushed ice, then strain the drink over it. Insert a metal spoon straw and garnish with candied orange or lemon slices as well as a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
*Coconut Palm Sugar Syrup: Use the standard recipe for making your own simple syrup, but replace granulated sugar with coconut or palm sugar. This little change creates a sweetener that is reminiscent of maple syrup with tasty caramel notes.