Big hats. Seersucker suits. It’s a warm May afternoon and the bets have all been made. The brightly-clad jockeys astride their matching horses are making their way to the starting gates. The only thing missing to complete the scene? A cool, refreshing mint julep. A julep is a classic cocktail synonymous with the excitement of the Kentucky Derby. The traditional version combines Kentucky bourbon, fresh muddled mint leaves and a little sugar or simple syrup over ice. If you like to spice things up a little, try my version with a bit of a South Carolina twist.
The Rhett Butler is based upon the hero of Margaret Mitchell’s classic novel Gone With The Wind. Rhett hails from Charleston, South Carolina, just like the Blenheim’s Ginger Ale that gives this cocktail its kick. Blenheim’s, much like Rhett himself, is bold, spicy and unapologetic. It’s made with fresh ginger and the flavor comes through strongly without much sweetness. The ginger is nicely balanced by the cooling flavor of the mint. Serve this option alongside the traditional mint julep at your Derby party for an unexpected and modern twist on the classic.
3-4 fresh mint leaves (plus one more sprig to garnish)
1 part Kentucky Bourbon
2 parts Blenheim’s Ginger Ale
Sugar to taste (optional)
Muddle the mint leaves (and sugar if you are using it) in the bottom of a tumbler. Add ice. Pour in the bourbon and ginger ale and stir well to combine and help dissolve the sugar. Garnish with another sprig of mint and serve.
Note: For those of you who really like to turn up the heat, Blenheim’s makes an “extra hot” variety of ginger ale that you can use to make your Rhett Butler. Skip on the sugar as well for a drink hot enough to sweep you off your feet and carry you up the stairs!