The Kentucky Derby unites classic fashion style, 19th century cocktails, gambling, and an age-old sport of kings in a quintessentially American event. The fellows suited up in seersucker, ladies in elegant straw hats, red and white colors abound, as do bourbon mint juleps in icy beaded silver tins. Crowds lining the ground and grandstand making 20:1 wagers on a horse named Stay Thirsty will be par for the course during the greatest two minutes in sport. Whether you are partying at Churchill Downs, at the iconic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, or at your home bar, we suggest you take a break from the ubiquitous mint julep and make The Expatriate your next Derby cocktail.
Barmen Vito Dieterle and Joseph Schwartz of New York City’s Little Branch and Silver Lining bars created The Expatriate cocktail a few years back and it has been a favorite since first sip. I have never seen the tipple grace a formal cocktail menu but from what I gather, its humble origins are from a bartender’s choice request.
I find the Expatriate’s simplicity part of its charm. One could argue that it is a prima facie bourbon version of the country club favorite Southside cocktail (gin + citrus + mint) with a generous dash of bitters and no fizz. However, I think it is much more since it brings the best parts of a julep and sour together to make uniquely accessible and memorable cocktail.
One of my “go-to” (and wallet-friendly) bourbons is Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (45% ABV). Eagle Rare is aged 10 years and has an oaky flavor with subtle caramel, chocolate, and toffee notes. At 90 proof it is smooth on the palette and blends well in cocktails. Plus the price (around $30) cannot be beat for the quality of this aged bourbon. Eagle Rare is produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Generally, it is uncommon to see straight bourbon mixed with lime juice. Come to think of it, most whiskey is blended with lemon juice in the various sour family long and short drinks. However, I have found lime juice has become my citrus of choice with some of the aged bourbons like Eagle Rare. Cocktails like the Lion’s Tail are testament for successfully marriage of the bourbon to lime.
Besides the bourbon, no other ingredient is so identified with the Kentucky Derby than mint. In juleps, a bouquet of mint protrudes grandly like a horse’s tail from a silver beaded julep cup. In the Expatriate, the fresh mint acts the flavor anchor and infuses the drink its uniquely herbaceous taste profile. Along the outside, simple syrup catches up and cuts the tartness of the lime juice. Then Angostura pulls to the head of the pack and subtly adds the balance with a few dashes of the wrist.
The result is a simple yet significant cocktail that uses the base Kentucky Derby ingredients of bourbon and mint and combines them in a copper colored sour cocktail highlighted by flecks of bright green mint leaf and nice frothy foam. Slap a fresh mint leaf like a jockey in the home stretch, garnish your tipple, and its a win, place, and show!
Created by Vito Dieterle and Joseph Schwartz
2 oz bourbon
¾ oz fresh limejuice
1 oz simple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Handful of fresh mint
Garnish: 1 mint leaf
Tools: Mixing tins, Hawthorne strainer, jigger, champagne coupe
Method: Combine ingredients in mixing tins. There is no need to muddle the mint, as it will get broken up in the shaking process. Add ice and shake for 30 seconds until well chilled, strain into 5½ oz coupe. Garnish with a wide mint leaf. Slap the mint leaf to release the oils before placement.
Enjoy The Expatriate Cocktail at your next Derby party and you will not stay thirsty for long!
PS: The author actually has a bet on Stay Thirsty to win the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.
*Got a cocktail question? Reach Fredo on twitter @loungerati, email me at fredo(at)loungerati(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!
**Fredo Ceraso is the editor-at-large of the lounge lifestyle blog Loungerati.com. He is head cocktailian and a co-producer of The Salon parties. Fredo is a member of the USBG New York chapter and rolls drinks at many Lounge, Swing, Jazz Age, & Burlesque events in New York City