It’s only eleven days until the first leg of the Triple Crown is run in Louisville, Ky., and unless you have tickets for the Derby, it’s likely you’ll be watching remotely. If your ringside seat is at a TV set in New York, you’ll want to raise a glass of cheer to this grand old southern tradition.
I am referring of course to the mint julep, although you’re free to toast the horses, too. Essentially, the drink is a compilation of bourbon, sugar, water, and crushed or shaved ice. But not all mint juleps are equal. If you want to home in on the best the city has to offer, check out one — or all — of the following.
The Commodore. This Williamsburg dive bar serves up a no-nonsense julep, which if you’re really imbued with the spirit of Dixie, you can use to wash down the gastropub’s fried chicken and biscuits slathered with honey butter and hot sauce. The Commodore, 366 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-218-7632.
The Flatiron Room. Boasting better than 1,000 whiskeys and offering spirits classes and whiskey tastings, The Flatiron Room will rise to the occasion on May 7 with a julep fashioned from good Kentucky whiskey and served to you in a thoroughly chilled metal julep glass. The Flatiron Room, 37 W. 26th Street, 212-725-3860.
Vineapple Cafe. Tucked away on one of the prettier streets in Brooklyn Heights, this bohemian-chic café serves up jazz on Sunday nights and a menu of mostly Italian delights all of the time. On derby day, beverage director Jennifer Sandella will be serving up a classic julep crafted with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Vineapple Cafe, 71 Pineapple Street, Brooklyn, 347-799-1035.
Clover Club. Located a little further into the Brooklyn heartland, this cocktail bar takes beverage history seriously, as its well-balanced julep, served in an ice-cold metal cup, attests. If you need a nibble to renew your julep capacity, go with the rich duck liver pâté, accompanied by grilled focaccia. Clover Club, 210 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718-855-7939.
Tasca. How does a restaurant dedicated to the culinary traditions of Spain and the Caribbean make its mint juleps? Unorthodoxly, to say the least. But don’t be too quick to write off this combination of Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon, lemon juice, ginger syrup, mint leaves, ginger beer, and Gonzáles Byass Spanish Vermouth. It can become habit-forming. Tasca, 505 Columbus Avenue, 212-362-2211.