3 Kentucky Derby Cocktail Recipes Just In Time For The Big Race

It's time to dust off your seersucker, don your best wide-brimmed hat, and grab an ice cold mint julep for The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports. This weekend marks the 142nd Kentucky Derby, and even if you aren't Churchill Downs-bound to partake in the festivities, it doesn't mean you can't be cheering on in style from the comfort of your own couch, Gainsborough hat on head, and drink in hand. For those getting into the Run For The Roses spirit remotely, Tom Macy, head bartender and partner at Brooklyn's Clover Club, shares his Derby Day drink recipes and cocktail tips.

Held every year since 1875, The Kentucky Derby prides itself on tradition, and the undisputed drink of the Derby is the mint julep. Each year, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served at the event. Macy, an admirer of cocktail guru and barstool historian David Wondrich, admits that when it comes to the history of alcohol, it gets very foggy — "no one was taking down the minutes when these cocktails were created." The julep was originally made with rum or French Brandy, like Cognac, but by the end of the 1800s it was being made with American whiskey. The drink became attached to the Kentucky Derby in the 1930s as more of a promotional thing, but the two have been intertwined ever since.

In collaboration with Wild Turkey, Macy brings us his Derby Day classics so you can recreate them wherever you are.

1. The Classic Mint Julep

Macy serves up this classic mint julep at the Clover Club and confesses it's one of his top 10 favorite cocktails. There's beauty in the simplicity, and the original approach gives the drink old-timey appeal. Super easy to prepare, you mix the drink right in the glass (Macy gives permission to forgo the silver cup if you have to — "it looks great but is not required"). Proportions are most important when it comes to preparation.

While bourbon is the more classic choice for the base, providing a "rounder" flavor, you can opt to use rye instead, which is spicier and "a little more assertive," giving it "an extra bite that punches through." Or, Macy says you can even try Wild Turkey's "Forgiven," a bourbon-rye blend, for the best of both worlds. He recommends the Wild Turkey line for well-priced, high-quality products. Last year, Macy concocted a mint julep using the distiller's "Rare Breed" barrel-proof bourbon for extra boozy results.

Macy warns to be careful not to over-muddle the mint. Six or seven firm presses should do it, just enough to extract the oils — "you don't want to grind and pulverize the leaves." Another tip Macy offers is to "make sure you have the smallest ice cubes you can find — crushed ice is the best." The julep is a very strong drink, and the ice is needed to "lengthen the drink and give it dilution." Ideally, you want your mint julep served at "arctic cold temperatures." Though this recipe stays true to the classic concoction, Macy says you can put a spin on it by swapping out the sweetener for maple syrup, honey, or agave.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 oz. Wild Turkey® 101 Bourbon or Wild Turkey® 101 Rye
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup (equal parts white sugar and water, dissolved)
  • 10-12 mint leaves — no stems
  • 2 mint sprigs for garnish

Method

  • In a julep cup or rocks glass, muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup.
  • Add the bourbon, fill with crushed ice, gently stir until frost appears on the outside of the glass.
  • Top with more crushed ice.
  • Garnish with the two mint sprigs.

2. The Georgia Julep

For a mint julep with a little something extra, Macy declares "peach is the perfect third wheel" to the classic cocktail's "flavors of bourbon and mint." Instead of the traditional peach brandy, which is not widely available today, Macy adds in a good quality peach liqueur.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 oz. Wild Turkey® 101 Bourbon or Wild Turkey® 101 Rye
  • 1/2 oz. good quality peach liqueur
  • 10-12 fresh mint leaves 

Method

  • In a julep cup or rocks glass, muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup.
  • Add the bourbon, fill with crushed ice, gently stir until frost appears on the outside of the glass.
  • Top with more crushed ice.
  • Garnish with the two mint sprigs.

3. The Kentucky Devil

For anyone in need of a break from juleps, this fiery libation from Wild Turkey does just the trick with bold bourbon and refreshing watermelon.

Ingredients:

  • 6 parts Wild Turkey® Bourbon
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 3 parts Ancho Reyes liqueur
  • 2 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 parts fresh squeezed watermelon juice

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into pitcher of ice and stir. Garnish individual servings with small watermelon slices.

Images: Tom Macy & Wild Turkey (4)

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