The Kentucky Derby is today, and you know what that means: We have yet another American sporting event that gives us a socially appropriate reason to day-drink.
The point here is celebration. Some of us may be celebrating the nation’s longest running sporting event; the race has been presented by Churchill downs since 1875. Some of us may be celebrating the indomitable spirit and incomparable athleticism of the Thoroughbred. Some of us may be celebrating the fashion; Derby Day is one of the few sporting events — if not the only one — in which American attendees look as if they were dressed for the nuptials of British monarchy, which is to say, classy-as-hell and time-machiney-awesome (which is exactly how Will and Kate described the dress code on their wedding invitations).
But if you’re here, you’re celebrating bourbon, and the Kentucky Derby’s traditional beverage, the Mint Julep. Almost 120,000 of these cocktails are served each year at the Derby, a testament to their enduring popularity. While you probably won’t be having quite as many guests at your Derby Day celebrations, you certainly won’t hurt your own popularity by having a few cocktail recipes prepared. Crush the ice, pluck the mint, pour the bourbon…and…we’re off!
Derby Day calls for bourbon. Drink like a pharaoh and pour from Maker’s Mark’s commemorative American Pharaoh bottle, which celebrates the incredible animal athlete’s accomplishments on the track. In 2015, he became the first Thoroughbred in history to win racing’s Grand Slam: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeder’s Cup. Raise a cup in his honor, and feel good about doing it; a portion of proceeds from the limited-edition bottle will go toward supporting the nonprofit Kentucky Derby Museum.
Sazerac may be in the Pacific Northwest, but their name is an homage to a famous southern cocktail. Belly up to the bar, and you’re in more than capable hands when it comes to mixing up a cocktail with a markedly southern accent. Lead Bartender Keith Villanueva shares his recipe for a Derby favorite: