Even if you don’t live in the South, you can still get in on the Kentucky Derby fun by tuning in and serving the race’s signature cocktail at home.  Big hats are optional (but very fun!).  Can’t watch the big event?  Host a showing of Secretariat  – a movie about Kentucky’s thoroughbred legend.

Mint Julep is a cocktail made by combining bourbon, simple syrup and mint (recipe below).  Though there is a lot of debate about when to add the mint to the mix, I like to infuse the simple syrup with fresh mint.  It adds a deep, fresh flavor to the drink.

Mint Julep (Makes 6 drinks)

Mint simple syrup (see below)

24oz Kentucky bourbon

Crushed ice

Fresh mint, for garnish
Place 6 glasses in freezer for at least 30 minutes to create frosty serving cups. Fill glasses with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1-2 Tbs. mint syrup in each (adjust amount of syrup according to each person’s taste). Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Mint Simple Syrup (recipe makes about ½ cup)

1 cup distilled water

1 cup sugar

1 bunch fresh mint

Stir together water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until sugar dissolves.  Simmer over high heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly.  Remove pan from heat and add mint, steeping for 10 minutes.  Strain mixture with a fine mesh sieve and cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until cold.  Can be made in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.