A few years ago, myself and a group of industry legends, including Nick Strangeway, Henry Bessant and the brilliant bars writer Edward Sullivan, were treated to a spectacular trip to Kentucky.
As guests of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, we were courted around the distilleries, saloon bars and karaoke hangouts of this beautiful state during one of its most exciting weekends - the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May.
One of the traditions that helps to add to the atmosphere of the races is that of the Mint Julep. Every year for almost a century, thousands of these refreshing yet potent cocktails are downed during the race, adding to the ecstatic crowd scenes at what is considered the most exciting two minutes in sport.
Julep comes from the Arab "julab" and the Persian "Gulab", and means sweet drink. In Kentucky it is seen as the perfect afternoon tipple, sundowner and ultimate social pick-me-up.
Comprised of four basic ingredients - ice, Bourbon, sugar and mint - the drink is one of the simplest to prepare and is always a crowd-pleaser due to its heavy measure of Bourbon. Traditionally served in a silver or pewter Julep cup, it's usually sipped with a straw.
Bourbon-wise I have to refer to that of our Kentucky host. Buffalo Trace is a fantastic savoury rye that comes in its own distinctive bottle. The Bourbon will always remind me of the great fun we had in Kentucky and the fantastic hospitality and atmosphere associated with this ritual drink.
There are many recipes but I have chosen a classic, from Jerry Thomas's Bartenders Guide, which dates back to 1862.
Jerry Thomas's Mint Julep
2tsp caster sugar
25ml mineral water
3-4 sprigs of mint
Press the mint, sugar and water in a Julep cup (or equivalent). Add Bourbon and fill the cup with crushed ice. Churn through and garnish with a bouquet of fresh mint and a sprinkle of white caster sugar.
Robbie Bargh, director,Gorgeous Group
020 7091 7492