Chic hats and lavish parties — the Kentucky Derby, scheduled for Saturday at Churchill Downs, gets more vogue every year. That also goes for signature Derby Day drink, the mint julep. From a gin spin to a champagne twist, the iconic Southern cocktail gets a modern update at the four hotspots below.
Eight Row Flint Julep
Usual ingredients of bourbon and mint are joined by the slightly-sweet addition of piloncillo (unrefined Mexican sugar) in the namesake julep at Eight Row Flint in the Heights, available for $6 on Saturday. But it’s the preparation of this stiff libation that makes it next-level. Co-owner and bar manager Morgan Weber builds his creation in layers, never stirring. “One of my favorite things about a julep is how it evolves and changes as you drink it."
1039 Yale St.; 832-767-4002
Bayou and Bottle on the first floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Houston presents a bubbly take on the classic cocktail with its champagne julep ($12). Brandy, mint, and simple syrup are topped off with sparkling wine. Don your finest Derby duds and hit the bar for a sip while the races play on several flat screen TV’s (1:30-7:30 pm).
1300 Lamar St.; 713-650-1300
Rosewater in Clear Lake serves up the imaginative Rosewater Julep ($10). Floral gin meets brandy, rose liqueur, and cucumber syrup. Rosewater also changes up the traditional Derby dress code, requesting that patrons wear dapper fashions on race day— and tiny hats, judged in a contest for prizes.
1606 Clear Lake City Blvd.; 832-224 4182
Swap out gin for bourbon, add fresh lime and lemon juices and simple syrup, and you get the Gin Julep ($12) at Punk’s Simple Southern Food in Rice Village.
5212 Morningside Dr.; 713-524-7865
Gin Julep recipe:
2 oz Seersucker Southern Style Gin
.25 oz lime juice
.25 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
5 mint leaves
1 mint sprig
In a julep cup, add gin, lime juice, lemon juice, five mint leaves, and simple syrup. Lightly muddle all, add shaved ice, and stir. Garnish with a mint sprig.