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Off to the Races: Kentucky Derby Cocktails

Sure, we know that this Saturday, May 5, is the infamous margarita-guzzling holiday of Cinco de Mayo. But for those southern folks among us, it’s Derby Day, as the first Saturday in May always hosts the Kentucky Derby. This year marks the 138th running of the horse race, which kicks of the Triple Crown. Time to don those big hats with floral accoutrements and seersucker suits as you sip bourbon-based cocktails and sweet tea!

The “holiday” basically calls for drinking of all sorts, as horse lovers place bets on the 22 horses ready to post on the track, and the who’s who of horse racing and Kentucky society post up in the grandstands. While we can’t always make it to the races, we can mix up the cocktails. Here are two to start your Derby Day celebration, the classic Mint Julep, the official drink of the Derby, and the Man O’ War, a signature Maker’s Mark cocktail inspired by the famous racehorse.

Classic Mint Julep
According to the Kentucky Derby’s website, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of the Derby events. It requires 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice! While the official derby cocktail uses Early Times bourbon, we prefer Jim Beam, the everyman’s bourbon and the spirit Stephanie’s father, a Kentucky Colonel, uses in his drinks.

½ cup Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup water
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh mint

Chill down a silver derby cup or highball glass. Meanwhile, make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water together for a few minutes. Cool and place in a covered container, keep chilled. Fill the chilled cup or highball glass with crushed ice. Add one tablespoon of simple syrup and 2 oz. of Jim Beam bourbon. Stir rapidly. Garnish with a sprig or two of fresh mint

Man O’ War
This cocktail was concocted by Maker’s Mark in honor of the horse of the same name. One of the winningest horses in history, Man O’ War only lost one race in his career! While he never ran the Derby, we can get behind this perfect afternoon tipple.

1 ½ oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz. orange curacao liqueur
½ oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. orange juice
Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Are you ready to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” with a glass in hand?