Saturday, May 2nd marks the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby an event that conjures up images of pretty dresses, money, roses, horses and little men (and women) in colorful silks and of course the mint julep.
The Kentucky Derby website calls out the mint julep as the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, specifically the Old Forester Mint Julep which they supply a recipe. I thought I’d pick up a bottle of Old Forester, give it a try straight up and then make a Mint Julep from their recipe.
Distilled & Bottled by Brown-Forman Distillers Co.
Pours caramel in color with bright golden highlights, a quick swirl produced thin, slow legs down the glass.
The aroma reminds me of a cigar wrapper with a distinct note of charred oak, I also find a whisp of mint and vanilla in the background.
Initial sip has a oak bite that mellows almost immediately to a softer, toasted oak followed by a rye spice, vanilla and caramelized sugar, the finish has a sweet orange flavor similar to a clementine.
Overall a nice sipping whisky, that initial sip hit hard with flavor but it smoothed out so quickly that it wouldn’t stop me from enjoying it straight, a splash of water would likely cut that down as well. Priced under $30 for the bottle I don’t mind mixing it in a Mint Julep, something I’d hate to do with a pricier bottle.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon
- Silver Julep Cups
Old Forester sells a pre-made Mint Julep but if you are unable to find that the Kentucky Derby Website has a recipe (see above). I followed their instruction and made a mint simple syrup by combining 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan and bringing it to a boil then set aside to cool. I took a mason jar and added a dozen mint leaves – their recipe calls for 6 or 8 but my wife loves mint – I muddled the mint in the mason jar then poured the cooled simple syrup into the jar, sealed it and placed it in the fridge overnight. The following day I strained out the mint leaves. I didn’t have crushed ice so I broke up some ice cubes, filled a julep cup with ice, 1 tablespoon of mint simple syrup and 2 ounces of Old Forester Bourbon, garnished with a fresh mint sprig and a cocktail straw.
First off, if you choose your cocktails because you don’t like the taste of liquor this isn’t the drink for you, the Mint Julep still has a strong bourbon backbone. The oak and vanilla are still prominent flavors followed closely by cool mint and kiss of sweetness from the simple syrup. I feel like the combination of the ice and refreshing mint would make this a perfect warm weather cocktail. I don’t do a lot of cocktails but this is one I would make again, I like that the bourbon is still a strong flavor component and not overshadowed by other ingredients.
As for the Kentucky Derby, my pick is Firing Line to win, American Pharoah to place and Carpe Diem to show. My wife chooses Frosted to win, International Star to place and Bolo to show.