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Uncorked: Talk Derby to Me!

Ladies, it is time to dust off those big and colorful, wide brim, southern belle hats and Gentlemen, bring on the bright pants and bow ties, it’s Kentucky Derby time!  April 24th kicks off Derby Week with the 147th Run for the Roses taking place on May 1st.  Just remember, your derby attire is not complete without a mint julep.  Who doesn’t love a mint julep?  I’ll wait…..

The mint julep cocktail is centuries old and the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.  Although it wasn’t made “official” until the 1930’s, when they began serving it in souvenir julep cups, it is said the julep was first introduced to the derby fans in 1875.  To make this refreshing drink, all you need is sugar and fresh mint leaves muddled, bourbon, a splash of water and crushed ice.  Then garnished with mint and powdered sugar.  Woodford Reserve, the main ingredient used, is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and they have released their 2021 Kentucky Derby commemorative bottle, painted by former professional baseball player for the Atlanta Braves, Richard Sullivan.

West Virginia has it’s own history with the mint julep dating back to 1808, first created at The Greenbrier Tavern and prepared with Gin or Cognac.  In 1816, after a hailstorm, the hail gathered in a bucket was used to make the julep and for a brief time in history, the drink was referred to as The Hailstorm.  Henry Clay, a senator during this era, brought the recipe back to Washington D.C, sharing it with well-known establishments such as the Round Robin bar and the Willard Hotel where the original recipe is still used today.  I assure you all, I am not doing this story any justice.  If I have piqued your interest, and you are ever at The Greenbrier, you must stop by one of our bars and ask to speak with Robbie Arnold, our Beverage Manager.  Enjoying a mint julep prepared by Robbie while hearing the story about this historic cocktail is a memorable experience that you can share with your family and friends for years to come.

Mint Juleps are not all we have in common with the Kentucky Derby.  We share a love for Woodford Reserve and use our very own private barrel select Woodford Reserve Peace and Justice in our juleps.  In preparation for the derby weekend, our team will spend hours sorting and selecting only the freshest mint leaves for the many mint juleps we will serve our guests.  While we certainly will not serve 120,000 of these like they do at the derby, the mint julep is a guest favorite at each of our bars over the course of the derby weekend.

The Greenbrier will also be showcasing the finest horsepower April 30th – May 2nd.  Not the beautiful racehorses you will see at the Kentucky Derby, but we will be hosting The Greenbrier Concours d’Elegance, celebrating the history of automobiles.  For more details about this event, please visit  Don’t worry, we love derby attire at America’s Resort too!

Cheers and drink responsibly!

– Amy Hoke, Food & Beverage Administrative Manager at The Greenbrier. Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper. #130. April 2021.

Also see: Run for the Roses at Derby Day!

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HashtagWV Art & Entertainment is a high-quality print and digital multimedia platform for all things West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The editorial focus is local music, unique shopping, the arts, events, theatre, and food and drinks.