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A Nip of Mint Julep

Mint juleps are as much a part of the Derby tradition as beautiful horses, big hats, and celebrities. Each year almost 120,000 mint juleps are served during the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs.

The history of this Southern cocktail of bourbon, mint, sugar, and water goes back to the 1700s. Louisville bourbon historian Michael Veach says the mint julep was used back then as a medicinal drink.

Joy Perrine, a bartending legend in the Derby City and co-author of “The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book,” shows us the proper way to make a mint julep – use spearmint, not peppermint. Perrine offers advice on which type of bourbon to use.

Derby tradition requires the governor to toast the winner with a silver mint julep cup. Wakefield-Scearce Galleries in Shelbyville handcrafts the sterling and pewter mint julep cups. These elegant creations, with their decorative hand-beading, take their inspiration from the originals made in Kentucky around 1795.