As the world gears up for “the greatest two minutes in sports” also known as the Kentucky Derby, I’ll be stationed at the bar.
The hats and the horses are just fine, but Derby Day offers something infinitely more exciting for the drink lover: frosty mugs of sweet, oaky bourbon and fresh mint sipped through a tower of crushed ice. One of the great American cocktails, Mint Juleps are an irresistible summer treat.
But if you want the best, I suggest making the trip down to Casino del Sol. The PY Steakhouse does a julep with spiced peach syrup that’s, for lack of better words, ridiculously amazing. It’s called the Stone Mountain Julep, after a suburb of Atlanta that’s become a gag in the show “30 Rock.” (Don’t ask me, I don’t watch TV!)
The casino’s head mixologist Aaron DeFeo wanted to add some Georgia flavors to the Kentucky specialty, so he took dried peaches and cooked them in a sous-vide machine with cinnamon sticks and Morena Mexican sugar. (He also added in a little peach brandy for good measure.)
To make the drink, you muddle a bit of mint with the peach syrup, then pour in bourbon and pack with handfuls of crushed ice. Lastly, you pour Fee Brothers old fashion bitters over the top, and garnish with mint and a cinnamon stick.
The star of the drink is the rich, toasty bourbon, a Woodford Reserve private label barreled exclusively for Casino del Sol. The other ingredients play off each other so well that the simple slushy feels like a powerhouse: The smell hits you first, the crisp perfume of the mint leaves with that deep, seductive cinnamon. In its copper mug, the drink is so cold you can barely hold it in your hands. But you power through, parting away the ice to get at the bright, peachy whiskey underneath.
I was doing this all in the lounge staring at the Rise of Ra slot machine, but I could imagine sipping my lovely julep at the Churchill Downs, shaded from the hot sun by a garish floppy hat. There would be big brown horses in the distance, if I felt like looking.
Honestly, who cares who wins when you’re having this much fun.