The $1000 Mint Julep

Woodford Reserve $1000 Mint Julep, photo by Jessie Gibson
Woodford Reserve $1000 Mint Julep, photo by Jessie Gibson

It’s not often you receive a text that reads: “Are you free to drink $1000 Mint Juleps with me on Tuesday”? I’m not sure you’re allowed to say no to that request. The Mint Julep is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, and consists of bourbon, sugar, ice and mint. How you put that together and dress it up, or down is your prerogative. Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon sponsor of the Derby, and responsible for those tasty cocktails you imbibe at the event in the infield, or the grandstands.

For an affluent few, there is the $1000 and $2500 Julep recipe. A limited number of silver and gold plated Julep cups are created for each Derby, and if someone is paying that much, they deserve their own special recipe to sip. I can now personally attest that the $1000 julep does, in fact taste better in the $1000 drinking vessel. It’s also fun to chat with Woodford’s Master Distiller, Chris Morris while drinking it.

This year, the 142nd Derby’s special Julep was created by NYC Bartender Julie Renee Williams. Riffing on pecan pie, she made this version of the recipe with orgeat that was created with toasted pecans. She taught us all how to make this spectacular concoction, we were even able to crush our own ice with a mallet, and on NY Primary day, that was a great stress reliever.

Woodford Reserve® 2016 Kentucky Derby® Mint Julep

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Commemorative bottle, photo by Robert Haynes-Peterson
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Commemorative bottle, photo by Robert Haynes-Peterson
  • 2oz/60 ml Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select
  • .75oz/22 ml Toasted Pecan Orgeat Syrup (recipe follows)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Caramelized pecan crumbles for garnish
  • Edible copper flakes

Rub fresh mint around julep cup. Combine ingredients with crushed ice and swizzle in glass. Add more crushed ice, garnish with mint bunch, caramelized pecan crumbles and edible copper flakes.

To make toasted pecan orgeat, toast a cup of pecans, mix or muddle into small pieces and simmer on low heat to create a nut milk. Fine strain or use a nut milk bag to remove nut pieces, and add equal parts sugar to liquid.

There were two other Julep options to try: a sparkling version made with Woodford Reserve, simple syrup, and mint; muddled in a glass then topped with sparkling wine, and a blackberry version, adding muddled blackberries to the mint.

Whatever you do for Derby day, make your Julep your way, and remember to wear a hat. Maybe you’ll even win enough to buy one of next year’s crop of $1000 cups.