Steamboat Sips: Kentucky Derby Mint Julep courtesy of Cloverdale in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Sips: Kentucky Derby Mint Julep courtesy of Cloverdale in Steamboat

Cloverdale's speciality mint julep.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Ah, the Kentucky Derby.

The most exciting two minutes in sports held at Churchhill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. For the 144th time, a parade of elite equine contenders will line up at the gates for the "Run for the Roses."

But before those two minutes, a sea of flamboyant hats, vibrant sundresses and seersucker suits mill about in true Kentucky fashion with spectators usually sipping the iconic Derby cocktail, the mint julep.

To get a taste of this bourbon-based cocktail, Cloverdale bartender Kyle Currell shared a few tips about how to make a classic mint julep, which will be the drink of the day at the Steamboat Springs restaurant’s first annual Kentucky Derby Party.

From 3 to 6 p.m. today, Cloverdale, at 207 Ninth St., will be feature croquet, live music by local guitarist Bill Martin and the live viewing of the race inside on the projection screen when the horses will line up at the gates at 4:30 p.m.

Derby attire is strongly encouraged.

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"It goes well with nice weather and people dressed for the occasion and the sporting theme and the culture that surrounds the Derby," Currell said. "It's a lot of fun to pair drinks around an event that has a strong culture around it."

Served in a sterling silver cup, the mint julep was named the official drink of the Kentucky Derby by Churchill Downs in 1938. Today, about 120,000 mint juleps will be served at the race track, according to the Kentucky Derby's official website — a feat requiring more than 10,000 bottles of Old Forester, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.

In Steamboat, Cloverdale will be serving its own spin on the tradition with the "Whiskey Ginger Smash," "Bells of War," "Brown Derby" and "Pendennis Club" specialty cocktails for the occasion.

Traditionally, the cocktail is made with bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint leaves.

"When you muddle the mint it's important to not over-muddle it," Currell said. "Sometimes, people will pulverize the mint and there will be shards of it everywhere — that tends to make it really bitter."

What he suggests is to lightly press the mint to release the oils and aromatics, then add the whiskey.

"This allows the syrup to absorb into the mint as you're muddling it for the fresh taste this cocktail is meant to be," he said.

Cloverdale's Kentucky Derby Party will be $65, which includes one mint julep and traditional fare along with a live viewing and festivities in the garden.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

Mint Julep recipe  

  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 fresh mint sprigs
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (made with equal parts water and sugar)
  • 3 ounces Kentucky bourbon
  • Crushed ice

In a silver julep cup or thick glass, muddle fresh mint leaves and simple syrup. Pack the glass with crushed ice and top with bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

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