A classic remains the odds-on favorite for Derby Day
Posted on May 1, 2019
Most readers likely don’t need to be introduced to Dutch, the barkeep at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s The Huntsman Whiskey Bar. For those who need a primer, just know that he is a one-stop shop for all things drink-related, especially when it comes to whiskey and classic cocktails.
Unsurprisingly, he is the obvious go-to when thinking of what to drink during the Kentucky Derby. Dutch suggests sticking to the classics for this season, springing for a simple mint julep. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“For me, one requirement for a truly great cocktail is its ability to be enjoyed any time. In good weather and bad. Day or night. On a Tuesday in December as easily as that venerable Saturday in May,” Dutch says.
“Another requirement is that a cocktail must spark an ‘I remember the first time I had…’ moment,” he explains. “The mint julep is that and more. It is rare you find a cocktail as iconic as the event it is sipped at, but the mint julep and the Kentucky Derby go hand-in-hoof.” Dutch adds that though the mint julep was borne in the South, it has transcended its regional beginnings, becoming a timeless classic that can be enjoyed any time by any person.
“The true beauty of the mint julep is in its simplicity,” Dutch continues. “Mix bourbon, mint, simple syrup, and crushed ice and you got yourself a proper julep. It is such a simple cocktail to make and one that is so easy to personalize for your Derby Day.”
Lest making a proper mint julep seems too simple, note that there are a few requirements. Dutch suggests Woodford Reserve as the bourbon of choice and strongly advises using the iconic julep cup, “unless you want people to talk ill of you the rest of the year until next Derby,” he cautions, adding that both are available at BevMo, Total Wine, or any of the “better” liquor stores. As one of the more stripped-down cocktails, it also lends itself well to innovation — try muddling jalapeño with the mint or incorporating fresh fruit, like blueberries.
¼ oz. simple syrup
8 mint leaves
2 oz. Bourbon
1. In a julep cup, lightly muddle the mint and syrup.
2. Add the bourbon and pack tightly with crushed ice.
3. Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside.
4. Top with more crushed ice to form an ice dome and garnish with a mint sprig and a few drops of bitters.
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp simple syrup
Using a mini food processor or blender, combine blueberries and simple syrup until pureed. Add 1 oz. of purée to your julep recipe.
Photo by Bob Stefanko