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What to know about the Kentucky Derby drink

A man grabs a mint julep during the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Every Louisvillian has their opinion on the mint julep, the longtime official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby.

To some, it’s just for tourists, while to others, it’s the perfect Kentucky Derby Day drink.

A few Kentucky Derby grinches say they’ll never sip a mint julep, while other experienced Derby-goers say they’ll only drink one fresh.

Whatever your thoughts, the mint julep is a Kentucky Derby staple that’s here to stay. And whether you plan to give it a shot or give it the cold shoulder, we thought we’d share a little info on the quintessential cocktail.

What is a mint julep?

Cigars and mint juleps on the day of the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. May 1, 2021

At its most basic, the mint julep is a cocktail made with bourbon, mint and simple syrup.

It’s been served at Churchill Downs for nearly a century, and it actually got its start as a breakfast drink.

Bourbon historian Michael Veach says the mint julep was invented in the 18th century as a pick-me-up for Kentucky farmers who spent their days planting, harvesting, and taking care of livestock.

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