With the Kentucky Derby being right around the corner, it’s only natural that you might start thinking about how you are going to celebrate. Are you going to wear a floppy hat or a fascinator? Maybe you considered sporting a fun patterned jacket or some brightly colored pants. What kind of food will you partake in? Most importantly, what kind of libation will you be drinking?
The Mint Julep is a bourbon cocktail best known for being the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. The Mint Julep became popular in the southern United States during the 18th century. It first appeared in print in 1803 in John Davis’ book “Travels of Four and a Half Years in the United States of America.” John Davis describes the Mint Julep as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”
While this refresher composed of bourbon, sugar, mint, and crushed ice is a delicious classic, I decided that I wanted to dress it up a little. I came up with a cocktail that celebrates both the derby and the sweet splendidness of strawberries. I call it “Run for the Roses” after it’s Kentucky Derby origins, it’s splash of rose champagne, and the beautiful rose color or the refreshment itself. Best of all, Run for the Roses is built entirely in the glass, no shaking required!
To make this special cocktail you will need the following ingredients: sugar, water, strawberries, fresh mint, lemons, crushed ice, rose champagne, and whiskey. To start, find a medium sized pan to make simple syrup. Place your pan on the burner and adjust the heat to medium high. Add a half cup of water to the pan and stir in a cup of sugar with a whisk. Keep whisking until sugar is dissolved. When the mixture begins to boil, lower the temperature to low and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. After simmering, turn off the burner and set the simple syrup aside to allow for cooling. (Cooling the simple syrup in the refrigerator speeds up the process). While your simple syrup cools, slice up a couple of strawberries and juice an entire lemon.
Now it’s time to build your drink! Pick your favorite clear rocks glass or a mint julep cup (if you have one) and place 6 to 10 mint leaves at the bottom of the glass. Toss in a couple of strawberry pieces, 2.5 oz (about 1 and a half shot glasses) of cooled simple syrup, and ¾ oz (half of a shot glass) of lemon juice into the glass. Muddle the mint, strawberry, simple syrup, and lemon juice within the rocks glass until the strawberry has been thoroughly smashed.
Add crushed ice on top of the muddle mixture and then add 2 oz of your favorite whiskey. Top it all off with a splash of rose champagne to give it a boozy twist and stir the drink for 30 seconds. Garnish with strawberry slices and a mint sprig, and voila! Your drink is now complete! To learn more about Run for the Roses, check out my video on The Meade County Messenger’s Facebook page to watch how I made it.