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Why This Mint Julep is the Best Whiskey Cocktail Ever

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This story is an installment of “The Best Whiskey Cocktail I’ve Ever Had,” a series from the booze-loving members of Liquor.com’s DrinkWire.

The Best Whiskey Cocktail I’ve ever had occurred about a year ago and this just goes to show that the best cocktail you’ve ever had doesn’t have to be complicated or contain multiple creative ingredients. But the perfection and simplicity, along with presentation can just make it for you.


My buddy David Danielson is the Executive Chef for Churchill Downs and he was asked to appear on Live TV and make a Mint Julep.Now the Mint Julep is about as Kentucky and Derby as you can get with a bourbon cocktail, but it’s really not a hard drink to make…it’s essentially bourbon and water right?! But you don’t want to mess that up on National TV…and this drink is really about the presentation and the confidence in building it.

So David asked me to help him with his presentation skills for the camera, so I immediately said, “meet me at the Silver Dollar (in Louisville, KY) and let’s have Susie (Hoyt) there show us how it’s really done.” As we all know Susie is one of the best, and she showed us how to not muddle the mint, but to spank it and “wake it up” and then use a bar spoon to rub the oils around the inside of the mint julep cup to deliver the aromatics of the mint to the whole drink.Then after she put the sugar and bourbon (it was a Heaven Hill Kentucky classic, J.T.S. Brown) she topped it all off with crushed ice, and overfilling it snow cone style, and then adding more “wide awake mint” to the ice cone, and of course the straw.

It was then that Ernest Tubb came on the turn table then with Walking the Floor Over You, and Susie and Larry (Rice) invited Chef David behind the bar to make a couple Mint Juleps. It doesn’t get much better than that! When everything comes together, your surroundings, the people, the drink, the music…it just tastes and feels better!

I’ve had some great bourbon and whiskey cocktails in some of the top cocktail bars all over the world, but on that night, at that time and place, that was and still is the Best Whiskey Cocktail I’ve ever had!

Bernie Lubbers is known as The Whiskey Professor and is the American Whiskey Ambassador for Heaven Hill Distillery out of Bardstown, KY. He is the author of the book, “Bourbon Whiskey, Our Native Spirit,” the host of WhiskeyProf.com, and he performs in the Bourbon & Bluegrass production, “The Evolution Of Bourbon, Told Through Bluegrass Music.” Check out his blog on DrinkWire. 

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