For me ‘Kentucky’ plus ‘cocktail’ brings bourbon to the front of my brain. I even own a cookbook called The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook. Woodford Reserve is the official Kentucky Derby bourbon; the official cocktail is the mint julep. In fact, last year at the derby, attendees bought: 120,000 mint juleps, 800 LBS of bourbon balls, 7,800 liters of bourbon and 426,000 cans of beer. Granted, 164,858 were there: dressed-to-the-hilt, placing bets and enjoying the famed ‘two best minutes in sports.’
Naturally, to prepare for this trip—I went straight out and bought Kentucky bourbon. And brushed up on my bourbon facts: known as “America’s official native spirit,” Kentucky bourbon falls under the umbrella of ‘whiskey’. While all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskeys are bourbon. In order for a whiskey to gain ‘bourbon’ status it must be made in the United States, made with distilled water, have over 51% corn and always be made in new and charred white oak barrels (after making bourbon, the barrels are re-purposed to make other liquors). An impressive 95% of bourbon is made in Kentucky. Add to your next road trip: the Kentucky bourbon trail.
Why all the fuss? I flew into Kentucky today, to attend the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Check this great clip out for some fun facts re: the derby. To embrace the ‘spirits’ of the derby, I figured why not round up a few cocktails? While it is true that my current fave drink is a mean Manhattan, I am hopeful that a few days in ‘Bourbon Country’ plus countless Derby Drinks might mean I come home with a new summertime go-to cocktail.
A mint julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint (traditionally spearmint), bourbon, sugar and water.
At tonight’s Derby Taste event, my favorite cocktail was similar to The London Bar’s (at the London NYC) Kentucky Derby Cocktail; it included Bombay Gin, St Germain Liquor, muddled basil, cucumber, ginger and lime juice. As much as I saw Woodford Reserve bourbon being poured, the go-to gin was Hendricks.
I am at the derby, soaking up prime spirits and anticipating parades of hats thanks to Pure Leaf Tea. A carefully crafted tea, it is a great mixer for your next cocktail. The Peach Ginger Fizz was developed by Gail Simmons (judge on BRAVO’s “Top Chef” and Food & Wine contributor):
Peach Ginger Fizz
1/4 cup ginger simple syrup
1 cup Peach or Diet Peach Pure Leaf Tea
Cold club soda
Candied ginger, for garnish
Fresh peach slice, for garnish
Pour ginger simple syrup into a highball glass over ice. Add Peach Pure Leaf Tea and stir well. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a skewer of candied ginger and peach slice.
Optional: Add 1.5 ounces silver tequila before adding the tea.
Derby Day Tea-Lep
3 ounces Pure Leaf Sweetened Iced Tea
3 lemon slices
6 large mint leaves
In highball glass, add mint and then crush. Add two lemon slices and
fill glass with ice, Pure Leaf Sweetened Iced Tea. Garnish with one
Tip: For a special twist, add 1 ounce Kentucky bourbon.