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Giada's Italian Spin on the Classic Derby Drink

25 April 2017
by Giada De Laurentiis
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Celebrate like you're at Churchill Downs with a julep, the classic cocktail of the races.

A few weeks ago, the team was having an editorial meeting about our upcoming stories. Naturally, the mint julep, that classic Kentucky Derby cocktail, came up. Of course I chimed in, "I love mint juleps! What's better than muddled mint, sugar, and bourbon?" There were some laughs at my expense with regard to my sweet tooth, but the julep has been the traditional drink at Churchill Downs for more than a century for damn good reason. It's delicious!
I stand by my sentiment, and while there's nothing wrong with a classic mint julep, today's bartenders are all about putting their own twist on the old favorite. Mixologists are swapping out regular old sugar for more complex sweeteners like demerara or turbinado and—hold on to your cannoli Рsubstituting rum and other spirits for Kentucky bourbon.
I have a version that puts my Italian spin on the drink. I've swapped out mint for basil – it's in the same family, so you get that same pop of freshness – and added lemon, which helps balance the sweetness of the sugar and adds a little zip, which I really enjoy. And if you happen to be in Las Vegas this May, we'll be serving it at my restaurant, GIADA, for Derby weekend, and all month long thereafter! Cin cin!


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