They’re the perfect (and the only real) cocktail to cheer Derby Day with. And as such, it’s only fitting that Louisville, ky., is our pick for the best place to find one.Few things are as quintessentially Kentuckian as a mint julep, the bourbon-based drink that serves as the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. So, if you’re headed to Louisville for Derby Day on May 7, here are five great spots to try a julep in the birthplace of bourbon.
Located within the historic Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville, this dark, genteel bar dates back to the early 1900s and is stocked with a staggering selection of julep-worthy bourbons. 500 S. Fourth St., (502) 585-3200, www.seelbachhilton.com
Proof on Main
This offbeat Contemporary American bar/restaurant emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients in both its food and its drinks, such as the fruity Julep Down Under (Four Roses Bourbon, mango puree and house-made eucalyptus syrup). 702 W. Main St., (502) 217-6360, www.proofonmain.com
Look for hipster tattoos and cutting-edge drinks — such as Henri’s Julep, made with Rittenhouse Rye, absinthe, brandy, gomme syrup, mint and a brandied cherry — at this craft cocktail bar. 732 E. Market St., (502) 583-6882, www.732social.com
Equus & Jack’s Lounge
Ask expert bartender Joy Perrine, who has worked behind the stick for five decades and calls herself “the Bad Girl of Bourbon,” to fix you her special julep drink. 122 Sears Ave., (502) 897-9721, www.equusrestaurant.com
Maker’s Mark Distillery
Located about an hour outside downtown Louisville, this distillery has a small bar for visitors. The spiritmaker also sells a premixed Mint Julep Bourbon product, made each year just for Derby season. 3350 Burk Spring Road, Loretto, (270) 865-2099, www.makersmark.com
Building the Perfect Julep
The cup: The preferred mint julep vessel is a frosty silver or pewter julep cup, although a tall Collins glass is also acceptable.
The mint: Many bartenders prefer spearmint over peppermint. Some julep aficionados enjoy debating whether or not to muddle (crush) the mint, which brings out a more assertive mint flavor.
The ice: Use shaved or finely crushed ice. You can make your own at home by wrapping cubes in a clean dish towel and crushing them with a rolling pin or frying pan.
DIY Mint Julep
- 10 to 15 medium to large fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2½ ounces (5 tablespoons) bourbon
- 3 mint sprigs