A $1000 Mint Julep, made from ultra-premium ingredients. For some, it sounds like the ultimate trackside luxury; for others, it sounds like an unattainable way to sip a cocktail that they haven’t quite learned to enjoy properly. For Kentucky Derby fans in the know, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime way to give back to the horse racing community in a significant way.
Image Courtesy Elizabeth O'Neill
Bourbon and horses are, of course, Kentucky’s two most famous industries – some would even call them Kentuckians’ most famous obsessions. And, as renowned bourbon historian Michael Veach recently noted, bourbon and horses are intertwined in more ways than we can count. Elizabeth O’Neill, Master Taster of Woodford Reserve, tells a story of her perfect Kentucky Derby moment, which marries racing and bourbon in beautiful harmony: “Last year was my first year attending the Derby in my professional capacity for Woodford instead of just as an enthusiastic spectator. I arrived at 4 a.m. to assist Chris Morris (Woodford Reserve’s Master Distiller) and Tim Laird (Brown-Forman’s Chief Entertaining Officer) in making cocktails and talking to the press about the $1000 Mint Julep. There we were at Churchill Downs on Derby morning and nobody was really there yet. We were set up for an interview near the second turn of the track and there was a moment when I was able to just enjoy watching the horses galloping and trotting during morning workouts. As a horse lover and a Kentuckian, I just thought, ‘I’m so lucky to be doing this!’”
Elizabeth O'Neill of Woodford Reserve recently chatted with me over mint juleps.
It’s that very spirit of thanksgiving that leads Woodford Reserve to give back to the equine community. For eleven years now, Woodford Reserve, the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, has used the $1,000 mint julep as an outlet to raise over $425,000 for equine and humanitarian causes. This year’s $1000 Mint Julep Cup will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, an independent 501(c) public charity that provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Created in 2006 by leaders in the horseracing industry, PDJF has disbursed over $7 million dollars and currently supports 60 permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have paralysis or traumatic brain injuries. It’s truly a remarkable charity that gives back to those jockeys who have made life-altering sacrifices in the pursuit of a sport they love.
So what makes a mint julep worthy of a $1000 or higher price tag? Unique ingredients, a rare, collectible vessel, and, of course, a charitable spirit. Ninety Crafter’s Cups, sold at $1000, will be available for purchase at the 142nd Kentucky Derby. These individually numbered cups, designed by Hamilton Shirts, feature Hamilton’s classic plaid pattern, along with the 2016 Kentucky Derby date and Woodford Reserve logo accompanied by a gold-plated sipping straw. Each Crafter’s Cup is available for $1,000. Even more rare are the fifteen gold-plated Master’s Cups, which feature a design similar to the Crafter’s Cup and are accented with diamonds and a silver sipping straw. Each Master’s Cup sells for $2,500.
As for the contents of the Julep Cup? It’s a special take on the Mint Julep created by New York mixologist Julie Renee Williams to invoke a traditional Southern dessert pecan pie. The recipe is:
Woodford Reserve 2016 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep
- 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select
- ¾ oz. toasted pecan orgeat syrup
- Fresh mint
- Caramelized pecan crumbles for garnish
- Edible bronze flakes
Rub fresh mint around julep cup. Combine ingredients with crushed ice and swizzle in glass. Add more crushed ice, garnish with mint bunch, caramelized pecan crumbles and edible bronze flakes. To make toasted pecan orgeat, toast pecans, mix or muddle into small pieces and simmer on low heat to create a nut milk. Fine strain or use a nut milk bag to remove nut pieces, and add equal parts sugar to liquid.
Cheers to smooth sips, a great cause, and the magic of the Kentucky Derby!
This post also appears on HerKentucky.com.