The Kentucky Derby is coming up and across the country, everyone is pulling out their pewter cups and stocking up on fresh mint in order to prepare to make the event’s signature drink, the mint julep.
While simple in its creation (mint, sugar, and spirit), the type and quality of the spirit that you put into the julep matters. With nothing really to mask off-flavors, you’re not going to want to make your julep with the cheap stuff—sorry plastic handle whiskey.
To help steer you in the right direction, we’ve put together a list of whiskies you should be using in your juleps this year.
(Note: while typically made with bourbon, we’ve also included a couple rye whiskies, which you can use to mix it up a little bit.)
- Booker’s Small Batch 2016–02 Annis’ Answer — Created in honor of the nuptials between Booker Noe and his wife Annis, this uncut, unfiltered bourbon is pulled from barrels in five different rack houses and offers a sweet, yet strong (126.7 proof) drinking experience as entertaining as a photo finish.
- Crouch Distilling Young Carolina Bourbon — You don’t have to be from Kentucky to make good bourbon and Crouch Distilling proves that. Made in Columbia, SC, this young bourbon is full-flavored and ready to party on Derby day.
- Maker’s Mark — This year, Maker’s Mark is producing a special commemorative bottle celebrating American Pharaoh’s Grand Slam win. If that isn’t enough of a reason, then all you need to do is open the bottle and take a drink to find the rest of your reason for choosing Maker’s.
- Baker’s — Named after the grandnephew of Jim Beam, Baker’s is distilled and aged in small batches, giving it wonderful toasty, nutty notes and a smooth finish, a real thoroughbred in the bourbon world.
- Basil Hayden’s – Another from Beam’s small batch collection, Basil Hayden’s uses more rye than Booker’s or Baker’s, giving it a spicier taste, which will liven up any julep.
- Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye — Based on one of the first bottled cocktails, the rock and rye, this rye whiskey is made with honey, navel orange, and angostura bitters. Sweeter on the palate than most, this rye is great for juleps for people who are just now learning the ways of whiskey.
- High West Yippee Ki-Yay – This rye whiskey is aged in wine barrels, not only giving it a delightful hue, but the subtle red wine notes make for great cocktails. After just a little bit, you’ll want to shout out the spirit’s namesake as well.
Then again, you could always just drink these straight and have just as much fun on Derby day as everyone else.