Bluegrass and Bourbon: Celebrate Kentucky’s Inspirited Keeneland with a Mint Julep


Lexington Kentucky is home to a unique and special place, Mecca for horse racing and training called Keeneland. Perceived today as a top brand in the Thoroughbred horse racing business with a storied history, traditions and a bright future, Keeneland was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Open the public to watch the horses work out on the track in the morning 6-10 AM, to public viewing on auction days, and to race fans for the races.

A perfectly  frosted Mint Julep. ( Image by  Kurt Winner)

Also open to the public is The Keeneland Library, established in 1939 contains one of the largest repositories of volumes on the Thoroughbred and includes articles, books, images and auction recordings and is also open to the public weekdays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can research bloodlines, learn of keen lad’s history, see silver and crystal trophies, Man O’War’s shoes and an antique jockey scale. A priceless collection donated to the library is the Daily Racing Form archive beginning in 1896.

LBMKeelandWidescreenSaleAccess to the exclusive clubhouse is only for owners and family only and yes there is a lengthy waiting list for membership. In addition to the racing seasons in October and April (Wednesdays to Sundays- post time is 1:05 PM) there are world-class auctions held here at certain times throughout the year. Keeneland is regarded as the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house and the preeminent market for yearlings and breeding stock. Keeneland holds a September Yearling sale, November Breeding stock sale, January Horses of all Ages sale and an April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. The number of outstanding Keeneland Training Graduates are staggering ( as of 2013): 78 Breeder’s Cup winners, 19 Kentucky Derby winners, 21 Preakness winners, 18 Belmont winners, 11 Eclipse Award Horse of the Year, and five Epsom Derby Winners. . Accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association ( NTRA) Safety and Inspection Team Keeneland demonstrates a commitment to safety and integrity of the sport of kings.

A visit to Keeneland is for those who appreciate fine horses, top athletes both jockey and horse, pomp and tradition, and the thrill of the race. Keeneland is located six miles west of Lexington on US Highway 60 very near the Blue Grass Airport.

Kentucky’s Perfect Cocktail The Mint Julep

Besides celebrating a win on the track with a glass of bubbly most outside of Kentucky equate the Mint Julep with this bucolic state and especially Lexington dotted with horse farms and encircled with miles of fences. Surely we like to think, they must traditionally drink them at the Kentucky Derby. But who came up with this drink and why does it evoke such a state of mind connecting horses, Kentucky, fancy hats and celebrations?

No one is quite sure who “ invented” this cooler. Likely, I am told, it originated in the American South sometime during the 18th century. A “ julep “ was a sweet drink that masked a bitter medicine. Made of sugar, water, mint and bourbon, a mint syrup is created a day ahead cooled and made to stand overnight before it is laced with Kentucky bourbon and served. It is imperative you serve it in frosty julep cups ice cold. This recipe “yields 7 ½ cups” to which I ask, “Who in the world would be satisfied with the half cup? Of this delightful drink?” for more on Kentucky Bourbon or to find out about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail go to

Kentucky Mint Julep

4c. water

2c. sugar

4c.loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped

4c Kentucky bourbon

Crushed ice

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add chopped mint leaves and simmer 30 minutes . Let syrup cool at room temp. overnight. Strain. Fill julep cups ¾ with crushed ice. Combine bourbon and mint syrup in a pitcher. Pour over ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Yield: 7 ½ cups

By | 2017-07-11T21:39:01+00:00 June 1st, 2014|Categories: Cocktails, Kentucky, Recipes, Sip|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Michelle is a freelance journalist specializing in luxury and experiential travel. Her readers number in the millions through her various online outlets and print magazines. She loves to explore a culture through their culture and food. "Sometimes, " she says , "luxury can be a shack on the beach with a sand floor and a ceiling of stars."

Leave A Comment