Whether you’re betting on the race, looking for an excuse to wear an extravagant hat, or just enjoy drinking outside during the day, the Kentucky Derby will be here in less time than it takes a horse to complete the 2.0 kilometer jaunt.
One of my favorite features of the nearly 150-year-old race is the long list of traditions that accompany Kentucky Derby weekend. The fashion is a category all on its own, and no party would be complete without the traditional drink, the Mint Julep.
Michigan is known as one of the nation’s top cultivators of mint, not to mention home to the annual Mint Festival. Add that to a long and growing list of craft liquor distilleries, and there’s plenty of opportunity to add local flair to your Kentucky Derby experience!
Party like you’re on the infield or relax and enjoy the race from your own living room with these Mint Julep recipes featuring Michigan whiskey selections:
THE 1792 KENTUCKY WHITE DOG JULEP
2 tsp sugar
.5 oz water
6 mint leaves
2 oz Corn Whiskey from Coppercraft Distillery (Holland)
Directions: Add the sugar and water to a glass and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Next add the mint leaves to the glass and press gently with a muddler (or the end of a wooden spoon will work too). Pack the glass with crushed iced and add in either corn or rye whiskey. Stir your concoction and add more ice if needed. Garnish with additional mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy, and you’re ready to sip!
Coppercraft Distillery is located at 184 120th Ave. in Holland.
MAPLE MINT JULEP
1/2 oz. pure maple syrup
8-12 mint leaves
3 oz. Rye Whiskey from Long Road Distillers (Grand Rapids)
Directions: To make this extra sweet variation on the classic, start by dropping all but a couple mint leaves into a glass and pour in the maple syrup. Gently muddle. Add the whiskey and stir to mix the ingredients. Fill the glass with crushed ice and garnish with the remaining mint.
Long Road Distillers is located at 537 Leonard St. NW in Grand Rapids.
OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
6-8 sprigs of fresh mint
2 oz Bourbon Whiskey from Grand Traverse Distillery (Traverse City)
Directions: To begin make a simple syrup ahead of time by boiling 2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar for approximately 5 minutes. Cool and place in the refrigerator overnight with sprigs of fresh mint. Fill a glass with crushed ice. Add 1 tablespoon of your mint simple syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon whiskey to the glass. Stir rapidly. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint for an added touch.
Grand Traverse Distillery liquors is located at 781 Industrial Circle, Ste. 5 in Traverse City, and their products can also be found at the Downtown Market and in stores throughout Grand Rapids.