The "run for the roses" at the Kentucky Derby Saturday is rivaled only by the dash for the mint juleps.
This friendly drink traditionally is served in silver cups. But unless you're at Churchill Downs, a chilled glass will do.
But once bourbon became widely available, the mint julep took on a more American flavor.
The bourbon you choose, of course, will have the most impact on the quality. Woodford Reserve, Booker's, Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark, Blanton's, Bulleit -- they all contribute to a very satisfying cocktail.
And you can give your mint julep a local angle by using Long Island Spirits' Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky . The bourbon does have traces of vanilla. It's slightly floral and kicks in with a little heat in the homestretch. The color has a rosy tint, which is apropos since "julep" itself likely stems from an Arabic word for rose water. A bottle of Rough Rider is about $40.
This recipe for mint julep from "The PDT Cocktail Book" (Sterling, $24.95) uses Booker's:
8 mint leaves, plus 3 mint sprigs for garnish
1 / 2 ounce simple syrup, made with 1 part cold water and 1 part superfine sugar
2 1 / 2 ounces Booker's Bourbon
Muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup in a chilled julep cup. Add bourbon and top with pebble ice, the small, crumbly pea-size variety. Swizzle drink, cap with more ice, garnish with mint sprigs.