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Ketucky Derby + Mint Julep


Ketucky Derby + Mint Julep


Just in time for the 144th Kentucky Derby, we share with you some history, interesting facts, and a recipe of the unique event and its official drink, the mint julep!

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May every year, and typically draws a crowd of 155,000 people. It is the longest continuously held sporting event in America, and it is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world. Often called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”, the Kentucky Derby receives this nickname from the approximate length of time it takes the winner to run from the starting gate to the finish line. The Kentucky Derby is the first race in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, where it is followed by the Preakness Stakes race and the Belmont Stakes race.

History of the Kentucky Derby:

The Kentucky Derby’s long history began in 1872, when Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark – of the famed pair Lewis and Clark – traveled to Europe. While there, Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, a well-known horse race run since 1780, and also fraternized with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed another popular horse race, the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Clark was inspired by his travels and experiences, and, upon his return, was determined to create a spectacle horse racing event in the States. With the help of his uncle’s John & Henry Churchill, who gifted Clark the necessary land to develop a racetrack, and by formally organizing a group of local race fans to be named the Louisville Jockey Club, Clark and his new club raised funds to build a permanent racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. On May 17th, 1875, the racetrack opened its gates and the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the very first Kentucky Derby. A total of fifteen three-year-old Thoroughbred horses raced one and a half miles in front of a cheering crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators. Aristides was the first winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Who Races?

20 horses compete in the Kentucky Derby, which is a larger field size than most horse races; where on average 8 horses race against one another. The 20 horses racing in the Kentucky Derby must first travel along the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is a series of 35 races taking place at tracks across the country and the world. Points are awarded to the top 4 horses that finish in each of those 35 races, and the 20 horses with the most points earn a spot in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby race. The Kentucky Derby winning purse is $2 million.


Kentucky Derby Interesting Facts:

  • The youngest jockey to win the esteemed race, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, was just 15 come derby day in 1892
  • Bill Shoemaker continues to hold the title as the oldest winner; he was 54 when he took home the 1986 title (He has also ridden the most Kentucky Derby horses (26) in history)
  • The Derby is also referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ because the winner is awarded a 40lbs blanket sewn with over 400 roses post-race
  • Over $150 million in wagers have been placed over the last several Kentucky Derby races.
  • Horses must be 3 years or younger in order to compete
  • 19 past winners have had names beginning with the letter “S,” including Secretariat, the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history, who completed the 1973 race in just under two minutes
  • The amount of food consumed at the Derby is pretty astounding. On average, spectators will eat 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 13,800 pounds of beef, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 cookies and 300,000 strawberries.
  • On Derby Day the infield will hold around 80,000 revelers, making it Kentucky’s third-largest city, behind Lexington + Louisville
  • The 1¼-mile distance has been standard since 1896 (The first 21 were contested at 1½ miles)
  • Fourteen female trainers have competed, with Shelley Riley coming closest to winning!
  • Thousands of elegantly dressed women will grace Churchill Downs on Saturday - specifically with really colorful, large hats!
  • Southern hospitality surrenders shamelessly to greed on Derby weekend, when you can pay at least $300 a night for a Louisville motel room that costs $55 any other time

Mint Julep Interesting Facts:

  1. It became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1983!
  2. Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups + held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup (This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup)
  3. The term “julep” is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.
  4. The first appearance of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”
  5. May 30th is National Mint Julep Day
  6. It takes 7,800 liters of bourbon and 2,250 pounds of locally grown mint to make the 120,000 Mint Juleps sold at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby weekend
  7. The first Juleps didn’t include bourbon or mint - just rum, water + sugar
  8. Around 1800, mint slipped into the equation. Many antebellum Juleps were made with cognac or other French brandies
  9. Juleps and similar libations were called antifogmatics + were often consumed in the morning
  10. President Theodore Roosevelt loved mint juleps and used them as an enticement to get his various cabinet members to play tennis with him! 

Mint Julep Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ Tsp. Sugar
  • 10 Mint leaves (or more if you love it!)
  • Crushed Ice
  • 2oz. Kentucky Bourbon (Old Forester is the official whiskey of the Kentucky Derby!)
  • Seltzer


  1. Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a pewter cup (or old-fashioned glass) + top with the sugar
  2. Muddle these together until the leaves begin to break down
  3. Add a splash of seltzer water - this is optional, depending on how strong of a drink you would like!
  4. Fill the glass ¾ full with crushed ice + add the bourbon
  5. Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, + garnish with a sprig of mint!
  6. Serve immediately + enjoy the Derby!


Irish Mule Recipe


Irish Mule Recipe

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this refreshing, Leprechaun approved recipe! 

We put a spin on the classic vodka mule recipe by adding Wigle Rye Whiskey to compliment the holiday. Adding lime, simple syrup + sage with Natrona ginger beer puts a unique, flavorful twist on this cocktail. 



  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey

  • 6 oz. ginger beer (or more!)

  • ½ - ¾ oz. of simple syrup

  • Juice of half a lime (about 1 ounce)

  • Lime slices (optional, for garnish)

  • Sage sprig (optional, for garnish)

  • Ice (crushed if possible)

  1. Fill a Moscow Mule mug (or rocks glass if you don’t have a mug!) with crushed ice

  2. Squeeze in lime juice

  3. Pour in the whiskey - we used a local Pittsburgh company, Wigle Whiskey, for our brand of choice, but your favorite whiskey is a perfect addition!

  4. Fill with cold ginger beer - we used the local Natrona Bottling Company’s classic variation for our ginger beer brand of choice!

  5. Serve with a stirring rod.

  6. Add sage + muddle (*optional*)

  7. Add a lime wedge for garnish (*optional*)



Ginger beer is to taste! If you like more of a whiskey taste, add less ginger beer. For a milder drink, add more! 



Reliving the Whiskey Rebellion Days at Liberty Pole Spirits


Reliving the Whiskey Rebellion Days at Liberty Pole Spirits

By Jen Lucas, Pack Up + Go Contributor

In the late 1700s during the presidency of George Washington, a tax was imposed on whiskey manufacturers, which resulted in their rebellion. Throughout Western Pennsylvania, these farmers protested the Federal Excise Tax enacted by Alexander Hamilton as a way to recover costs associated with the Revolutionary War. They would place Liberty Poles, which were essentially large flags with “No Excise Tax” written on the fabric, along roads, town centers, even on their homes.

Somehow unaware of this rich history in my own backyard although a fan of the libation, I knew I had to schedule a tour at the newly opened Liberty Pole Spirits, a distillery located in Washington, PA approximately 25 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The founders of Liberty Pole Spirits—the brand name for their blanket company Mingo Creek Craft Distillers—are huge enthusiasts of history from the Whiskey Rebellion era. The Hough family has been distilling their award winning whiskey from their Washington location using locally sourced grains, opening to the public in July 2016. A recent trip to the American Craft Spirits Association resulted in a gold medal for the Houghs’ Peated Bourbon and a bronze for their Bourbon Whiskey.  

Liberty Pole Spirits offer tours of their facility and formal tastings on Saturdays only at 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm. Tours are limited to 10 people per group. I was fortunate enough to reserve a spot recently and fell in love with this family-owned and operated bourbon-colored jewel.

The tour showcasing the location’s distillery and aging rooms costs $20 per person and includes a cocktail in the Meeting Room, which is modeled after where farmers used to congregate in the 1700s to strategize their rebellion against the government. There were four drink options listed on the menu, all crafted by the matriarch of the operation, Ellen Hough, and naturally made with one of the five whiskeys they produce. I went with the Mingo Mule, which was a concoction of their Bassett Town Rye Whiskey, Nectarine-Cilantro Shrub, fresh squeezed lime juice and a splash of ginger beer. This was not your typical tasting mule but it was amazing nonetheless. It was evident that a lot of trial and error and taste-testing went into each specialty cocktail, which sounds like a dream job to me!

The Meeting Room was adorned with period-specific décor. Above the large fireplace hangs an upside-down painting of Alexander Hamilton as a sign of disrespect for his role in the exile tax during the Whiskey Rebellion.

On to the distilling room where you’ll see the original crane from the building’s previous occupants, who sold cemetery monuments.  That crane now acts as a transport for whiskey barrels to and from the aging room downstairs. Currently, there are two stills. The main one, custom made by Trident Stills in Maine, is 300-gallons and named Harold, after Mr. Hough’s dad, who they lovingly joke was a collector but never drank the whiskey. The smaller 15-gallon still is named Howard, after Mrs. Hough’s father, a chemistry teacher. This one is used for research and development. After learning a bit about the distillation process we headed down to the aging room.

The aging room, with the fragrance of a livestock feed store and rightfully so, has a high-tech custom water filtration system and barrels of locally grown corn waiting to be made into whiskey. The racks house several barrels of aging whiskey, which we learned is common. Approximately 4% will be lost due to evaporation depending on temperature and humidity.

We headed back to the Tinker Dining Room for the long-awaited tasting. There were five Glencairn glasses, each with a sip of one of their whiskeys, covered by a circular dish called a watch glass, which keeps the aromas and flavors sealed in. There was the Bassett Town, Corn, Bourbon, Rye and Peated Bourbon. Being a whiskey fan regardless, I was overly impressed with the flavor of each, especially the rye, as that is a flavor I am usually not so fond of. My favorite was the Bourbon Whiskey which, as I mentioned, was a bronze medal winner. The Peated Bourbon, of Scotch-Irish decent and made with peated barley, had a very distinct flavor, although it was another I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, the tour had to end at some point or else the Hough family would have had to carry all 10 of us out of that tasting room. The entire experience was extremely informative and enjoyable. Whether you are a casual whiskey drinker or a connoisseur, I highly recommend it. The history behind the area where Liberty Pole Spirits are located, the family’s knowledge and enthusiasm, as well as their recognized talent for distilling are reason enough to reserve a tour or simply stop in for a history lesson and a specialty cocktail.