Derby Day is a time for big bets, bigger hats and tasty cocktails. Fashion is high and the expectation of a derby-themed cocktail is higher.
Here is a duo that should cover your bases for a party scenario that often encompasses an array of taste preferences.
First, we tip our hat to a perennial all-star: The Mint Julep is the quintessence of Derby Day imbibing with a permanent place in America’s liquid history.
There have been several variations on this cocktail since the mid-1800’s so we’ll focus on the most relevant to recent mixology. The Mint Julep calls for four ingredients — bourbon, mint, sugar, and water.
It is simple to prepare and delicious to sip while taking in the races. In the spirit of tradition, we will call for one of the oldest bourbon families in Kentucky — The Beams.
The Mint Julep
1/2 cup Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
Chill down a silver derby cup or highball glass. In the chilled glass, combine water, sugar, and mint leaves from 2-3 sprigs.
You may finely chop the leaves beforehand or use whole leaves and gently press ingredients.
Do not muddle harshly, as the goal is to release essential oils from the leaves without heavy bruising.
Fill the glass with crushed or cubed ice and then add the bourbon. Give a good stir with a straw and garnish the drink with the last mint sprig.
Pro Tip: Place the sprig directly next to the straw — when your guests sip, the aromas of mint will lead the taste experience.
Although the Julep is the most popular drink on Derby Day, not everyone at your party may like the taste profile afforded by barrel-aged whiskey, so here’s a festive alternative to brown spirit-based cocktails.
The Black-Eyed Susan Cocktail is named for the flowers draped upon the winning horse at Maryland’s Preakness (Derby purists, please forgive me!).
In the spirit of a Triple Crown party, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients. The Black-Eyed Susan Cocktail is a combination of orange juice, pineapple juice, vodka, light rum and orange liqueur.
Traditionally, they consisted of Mount Gay Rum, Cointreau, and vodka. We will be using fresh juices, Kentucky vodka, and a Martinique spirit that allows us to combine light rum and orange liqueur into one ingredient. Feel free to increase amounts for a great party punch!
The Black-Eyed Susan
1/4 cup Rain Organic Vodka
1/4 cup Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb Liqueur d’Orange
3/4 cup Lambeth Groves Orange Juice
1/2 cup Ceres Pineapple Juice
Fill a highball glass with crushed or cubed ice. Add the spirits first, then follow with the juices.
Stir well and garnish with a lime wheel. Remember to always sample the drinks before serving to guests and never be afraid to adjust ingredients to taste.
Ready to try these out? I recommend you pair the Julep with barbeque and grilled foods, and leave the Black-Eyed Susan for crudités, salads and seafood.