This Saturday, May 4, is the 145th running of The Kentucky Derby, or I like the nickname “The Run for The Roses” which is also a great Dan Fogleberg song. While I am not necessarily a Derby enthusiast, I do try to watch the actual race every year. The one thing I do know, is that the Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby for nearly 100 years. While other types of alcohol have been used, the Southern cocktail is most often made with bourbon, obviously due to the race being held in Kentucky. If you’re doing it right, mint juleps are served in a silver cup that forms a thin layer of frost on the outside to keep the drink chilled.
I’ve lived in Atlanta, GA for 12 years now, and I don’t know if that classifies me as a Southerner or not, but I knew about mint juleps long before moving to the South.
When I was growing up, my mom had a rock garden on one side of our driveway that was shared with our neighbor since it fell on the property line. Mom and our neighbor collected rocks from vacations and other places, planted different types of plants, and solved all kinds of world problems while playing out there. One of the many interesting things planted in the garden was the herb, mint. It was easily identifiable by its pungent odor and it was impossible to walk past it without catching a whiff. I don’t remember mom using that mint for anything except, you guessed it, making mint juleps. Her and my dad’s recipe originated from their friends, “the Booneville gang” as they refered to them, when they attended the University of Missouri. That Booneville gang swore that this was the best mint julep recipe known to man, and the best part about the Missouri recipe is, you make them in, and drink them out of paint cans.
Now don’t get me wrong, we obviously didn’t grow up drinking mint juleps. It wasn’t until we were of age when the fun began. In fact, probably the best mint julep story took place when my younger brother Brad brought his then girlfriend, and now wife, Meredith, home from college for the first time. It was summertime, and yes, we broke out the paint cans and made Missouri Mint Juleps. What a first impression she must have had of our family who drank out of paint cans.
I’m not sure what the Kentucky Derby folks would think about drinking out of paint cans, but if you’re looking for a little Missouri twist on the Derby this weekend, here is my mom and dad’s Missouri Mint Julep recipe. Enjoy!
Missouri Mint Juleps
In a 1 gallon “paint can” with a bail:
Fill the pail with alternating layers of crushed ice and fresh mint leaves. Add ½ cup sugar. Pour the juice of 8 oranges and six lemons over the ice. Add 1 pint of bourbon to fill to the brim. Put the lid on tight and shake until ice forms on the outside. Grab some straws and pass the can!