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Default How to make a mint julep, the Kentucky Derby's signature cocktail

How to make a mint julep, the Kentucky Derby's signature cocktail
By Michael Bartiromo | Fox News

The Kentucky Derby, originally scheduled for May 2, is finally taking place on Saturday after an unprecedented delay due to the coronavirus health crisis.

And, as is customary during the Derby — just as it has been every day of the pandemic — there will be drinking.

In honor of the annual event, Fox News reached out to Woodford Reserve, the official presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, to discuss the official recipe for everyone’s favorite Derby drink: the mint julep.

“I have been researching the history of the mint julep professionally for over 30 years,” said Chris Morris, the master distiller for Woodford Reserve.

Morris told Fox News he made his first mint julep at least 45 years ago, and he never celebrates the Kentucky Derby without one.

Morris said the histories of both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky bourbon go back to the 1770s, when settlers of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh origins settled in the region, then part of the Colony of Virginia.

“They came from whiskey-making cultures. They also came from a culture where the Sport of Kings was horseracing,” Morris said. “So the Bourbon industry and horse breeding and racing developed together on the Kentucky frontier.”

As settlers moved west into what is now Kentucky, so did their bourbon. Soon, the spirit served as the basis for new cocktails and supposed medicinal tonics, one of which later became the mint julep. It became more popular at horse races and county fairs, where folks would get together to talk up their thoroughbreds and bourbons, Morris explained.

“By 1810, the population of Kentucky was 400,000,” Morris said. “The number of registered distilleries, almost all of them on farms, was a little over 2,000. There was a distillery for every 200 people. Kentucky was all about bourbon and horses.”

These days, Kentucky is still all about bourbon and horses, Morris said, adding that he sees a spike in popularity for bourbon and mint juleps near Derby Day every year.

To that end, he's sharing the official mint julep recipe of the Kentucky Derby — although there's no law prohibiting you from drinking it every subsequent day of the pandemic.

Here's how it's made:

  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • 1½ ounces water
  • 2 mint leaves, plus additional leaves, for garnish
  • 2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
  • Crushed ice


Add powdered sugar to a cocktail glass (or a traditional silver cup, if you have one), and stir in water under sugar is dissolved. Add the mint leaves and bruise, or gently muddle. Add 1½ ounces of bourbon and stir. Fill the cup with crushed ice, until about ⅔ full. Insert straw and garnish with additional mint leaves, if desired. Top with remaining bourbon, followed my more crushed ice, and serve.

Bourbon and horse racing have long been part of Kentucky's culture, explains master distiller Chris Morris. (iStock)
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