Why Do Folks Drink Mint Juleps on the Kentucky Derby?

Whether or not you propose to benefit from the race from Churchill Downs or don an elaborate hat within the consolation of your personal house, for those who’re watching the Kentucky Derby, chances are you’ll end up sipping on a refreshing mint julep this weekend. However, why?

The drink—a cocktail historically composed of bourbon, sugar, water, and mint—has been a Kentucky favourite since lengthy earlier than Churchill Downs got here into play. In truth, in 1816, silver julep cups got as prizes at Kentucky county festivals (a change from the stuffed animals they provide right this moment). And earlier than that, a “julep” was thought-about medicinal, “prescribed” for abdomen issues and sore throats.

Although mint juleps have doubtless been loved on the Kentucky Derby for the reason that starting—legend has it that founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., planted mint for cocktails when he based the observe in 1875—the cocktail wasn’t declared the “official” Derby drink till 1938.

It was only a few years in the past that the Derby switched to a extra “genuine” model of the mint julep. For nearly 20 years, the 120,000 mint juleps served on the races had been made with Early Occasions. Based on the growing older course of, Early Occasions isn’t thought-about bourbon (simply “Kentucky whisky”) within the U.S. In 2015, they switched to Outdated Forester, which can also be owned by the Brown-Forman Company.

Even with the swap to “actual” bourbon, what most revelers really get is the Outdated Forester Prepared-to-Serve Cocktail combine, not a handcrafted mint julep—until you’re prepared to pony up $1000. For practically 15 years, Brown-Forman has served a special version of the drink made with Woodford Reserve small batch bourbon. It’ll set you again a grand, however hey, you get to maintain the pewter cup—and proceeds will profit the Project to Protect African-American Turf History, a nonprofit group devoted to preserving the historical past of Black jockeys and telling their tales.

In the event you’re trying to drop much more money, there’s additionally a $2500 model of the drink which is available in a gold cup with a silver sipping straw.

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A model of this story ran in 2016; it has been up to date for 2021.

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