Jazz up your juleps

Few celebrations have a cocktail that is as strongly associated with the day as the Kentucky Derby is with the mint julep. In one week (May 7), the 148th edition of “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” will be run, and there is no telling how many mint juleps have been sipped since the inaugural event in 1875.

Southerners love their traditions, so until recently the classic cocktail saw little modification. Juleps were made with various spirits such as brandy and genever gin throughout the 19th century, but the mint version that became intertwined with the Derby accepts no substitutes for Kentucky bourbon. (Well, almost no substitutes, since the “official drink” of the Derby from 1999-2014 used Early Times whiskey. In 2015 the Derby returned to the julep’s roots of bourbon as the base spirit, with Old Forester chosen as the official brand.)

Similarly, a particular variety of spearmint known as Kentucky Colonel is the preferred herb. Silver julep cups are de rigueur for purists, although pewter is also acceptable. For perfect form, one should hold the cups only by the top or bottom edges, allowing frost to form along the sides of the cup.

Those who aren’t hidebound to tradition have made changes and additions to the mint julep, and today you can try any number of different juleps, including over 100 recipes from the EYB Library. Sip one of these tasty recipes, whether or not you watch the race or wear a special hat in honor of the day:

If you are looking for something to nosh on in between sips of julep, try these 17 recipes from Food & Wine that are perfect for a Derby Day party.

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