For nearly a century, the mint julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. The Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail is a ready-to-serve beverage that has been the "The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby" for over 16 years. Over 80,000 Early Times Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, requiring 8,000 liters of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 2,200 pounds of freshly harvested mint, and 80 tons of shaved ice.
The mint julep is a tradition as old as the Kentucky Derby itself, as much a part of Derby tradition as bugles and roses. Rarely seen the rest of the year, this potent concoction is the national drink for a few hours every first weekend in May.
The julep is the official toast to the winning horse, but fans at Derby parties tend to start long before the finish. Most Southerners will admit that it's an acquired taste, at best, this mixture of bourbon, sugar, mint, and ice.
"I like the taste. I grew up with them," native Kentuckian Norma Taylor says with a smile. "You have to like bourbon...and mint."
Like another Southern delicacy, Coca-Cola, the julep was concocted to mask the taste of medicine. It caught on among the healthy.
Legendary U.S. Sen. Henry Clay served juleps on his Kentucky plantation, and introduced Northerners to the beverage when he went to Washington. In the 1850s, Clay brought his recipe to Washington's Willard Hotel.
Willard bartender Jim Hewes still makes juleps based on Clay's recipe: "A teaspoon of sugar, six or eight red-stem mint leaves, and a small measure of bourbon," Hews says.
He churns that mixture, then adds a lot of ice, more bourbon, a splash of water, a sprig of mint and a sprinkling of sugar on top.
Controversy rages over the minutiae of a proper julep -- chipped or shaved ice, crystalline or boiled sugar -- but julep purists agree that a real mint julep must be served in a frosted silver julep glass. And, of course, made with the finest Kentucky bourbon. Moonlight and magnolias are optional.
The Grade II Early Times Mint Julep Stakes on May 24 at Churchill Downs is sponsored by Early Times, the time-honored ingredient in mixing an authentic mint julep. If the Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail is not available from your local retailer, you can make your own with this recipe:
Early Times Mint Julep
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Early Times Kentucky Whisky
Silver Julep Cups
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
The source of this information is http://www.kentuckyderby.info/