In celebration of the Kentucky Derby, we’d like to teach you how to make the perfect Mint Julep, which is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby.
So, what is the key ingredient to a classic mint julep? Kentucky bourbon! Did you know that in order for bourbon to be called bourbon (and not whiskey), it must be aged in new, charred, white oak barrels? And, those white oak barrels can only be used ONCE to age bourbon. The used barrels are often sold to whiskey and tequila companies for re-use.
Every bourbon barrel is made from white oak staves (high-quality, large white oak logs). These staves have to be perfect – no knots or other imperfections — and are typically only made from the bottom third of the tree trunk.
Since there is such a high demand for white oak staves, the American Forest Foundation, the University of Kentucky, and the DendriFund developed the White Oak Initiative, with the goal of ensuring that white oak continues to thrive. To read more about the initiative, click here.
Over 80,000 mint juleps are served over the course of the Kentucky Derby, so here’s how to make your own:
4-5 sprigs of mint leaves
2 sugar cubes
2 ½ ounces of Kentucky bourbon (aged in White Oak barrels)
- Place the mint and sugar cubes in a glass (traditionally a julep cup, collins glass, or double old-fashioned glass).
- Muddle the sugar and mint leaves until the sugar is dissolved and you can smell the oil from the mint leaves. Be careful to gently muddle. Your goal is to open up the veins of the mint leaves – not tear them to shreds.
- Add your Kentucky bourbon (aged in White Oak barrels)!
- Fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice and stir well until the glass gets nice and frosty.
- Garnish with a mint sprig.