Okay, 2021 still might not be the year for huge Kentucky Derby parties. But at least the annual event is going on as scheduled, albeit with a reduced number of spectators donning their seersucker suits, fancy dresses, and fascinators. So you can still celebrate the 147th annual Run for the Roses at home on May 1 with your family, COVID pod, or a small group of race-loving friends.
In addition to its in-person Derby celebration, D.C. whiskey mecca Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan is offering several Derby-at-Home kits for carry-out. The Derby Day Platter ($64, serves 4) features housemade pimento cheese and crackers, cucumber tea sandwiches, buttermilk biscuits, deviled eggs, pickled shrimp, head-cheese terrine, and assorted pickled vegetables. The Canned Julep Kit ($45, serves 10) includes a four-pack of canned nitro-muddled mint juleps, along with powdered sugar and mint sprigs for garnish, and pebbled cocktail ice by request.
Guests can add on other accoutrements like a bottle of specially priced Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion Series No. 4 13-year-old Kentucky Bourbon for $49, or $40 when added to the Julep Kit; extra canned Juleps for $13 for two servings; three mini Bourbon-pecan tartlets for $7; and a group-size pimento-cheese spread and sea-salt lavash crackers for $12. Kits and extras can be pre-ordered through Tock through May 1.
If you’re mixing mint juleps at home, consider reaching for a bottle of Virginia Bourbon. (Contrary to what you may have heard, Bourbon doesn’t have to be distilled in Kentucky, just somewhere in the U.S. It does, however, have to be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred white oak barrels.) Virginia makes some stellar versions, like John J. Bowman Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey Small Batch from A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Manassas’s KO Distilling, Ragged Branch Straight Bourbon Whiskey from the Charlottesville-area producer, or Tarnished Truth 3-Year High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Virginia Beach, made in the only distillery that’s housed in a U.S. hotel, The Cavalier.
The classic julep recipe is always in style, but if you want to serve a version that’s a bit out of the box, try this one from Deke Dunne, bartender at Allegory at the Eaton Hotel in DC, which gives a nod to our cherry blossom tradition with a locally made liqueur; spraying on the bitters is Dunne’s homage to the city’s street artists.
Recipe courtesy of Deke Dunne, Bartender, Allegory at the Eaton Hotel, Washington, DC
1 ½ oz. Bourbon (he uses Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon)
1 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Cerasum Aperitivo
10 mint leaves, 2 reserved for garnish
Peychaud’s Bitters, ideally in an atomizer
In a highball glass or julep cup, muddle the Bourbon, 8 mint leaves, and Cerasum. Add pebble or cracked ice, stir to combine, and add more ice to fill the glass. Garnish with a few sprays (or dashes) of the bitters and the mint leaves.
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