Serious Eats: Recipes
Ah, Kentucky Derby weekend—the time each year when people across the country begin affecting Southern accents and taking stabs at mixing, or at least drinking, mint juleps.
This isn't a mint julep. Let's be honest: unless you've honed your julep-making skills over years of withering summers, or are fortunate enough to be sitting across the bar from legendary julep-making bartender Chris MacMillian in New Orleans, chances are the julep you'll find in your silver tumbler or, god help us, plastic cup is going to range somewhere between mildly disappointing and downright undrinkable. Now, don't get me wrong: I absolutely love mint juleps, and feel they are one of the great culinary contributions America has given the world; it's just that making an excellent julep (really, is it worth drinking any other kind?) is an exercise that requires an inordinate amount of labor, skill and love.
Fortunately, there are other drinks that are Kentucky to the core, and that are absolutely appropriate to be mixed on Derby weekend. One of these is the Seelbach Cocktail: hailing from the Louisville hotel of that name, the Seelbach rests on a base of bourbon—as if it would be anything but—and dresses up this spirit with a little Cointreau, a healthy dose of bitters and an indulgent splash of Champagne.
The Seelbach Cocktail may not be a julep, but it doesn't have to be: it's respectable, powerful and all-Kentucky right down to the bottom of the glass.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.