A distinctly Southern drink, popular since ante bellum times, the Mint Julep has been Churchill Down’s signature drink for 60 years. The classic version is made with just four ingredients: finely crushed ice, a little sugar water, fresh mint and fine Kentucky bourbon. Served in silver julep cups (which do have other uses -stuffed with roses, toothbrushes, or pencils), it is as much a ceremony as it is a drink.
Many years ago, a Kentucky General wrote a letter to his friend describing the custom of making a Mint Julep: “Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance…Being overcome with thirst, I can write no further.”
Classic Mint Julep
The day before:
1. In the freezer, place julep cups (9 oz. is a good size; sterling silver, pewter, or glass highballs).
2. Make a simple syrup. Place 1 c. sugar and 1 c. water in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. While syrup is cooling, place 1/2 c. mint leaves in a glass jar or cup and pour syrup over the leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or longer. When ready to use, strain the mint leaves. Note: this makes about enough syrup for a dozen drinks.
1. About 30 minutes before serving, fill cups and pack tightly with crushed ice. Return to freezer.
2. Pour 3 oz. of bourbon and 2 tsp. of mint syrup over ice. Do not stir and hold cup by the rim so as not to disturb the frost. Insert a sprig of mint and serve immediately.