The Battle Between High West and Mint Juleps

Encapsulated quietly on the first Saturday in May is the “most exciting two minutes of sports.” The Kentucky Derby (also known as “The Run for Roses”) is perfect for anyone who loves horse races or anyone with a minuscule attention span. In those two minutes, crowds everywhere become Southerners—wearing elaborate wide-brimmed hats with seersucker suits, lounging with mint juleps as comrades sing (a politically correct version of) “My Old Kentucky Home.” So how do you celebrate in Utah? There are two paths to pursue—one of whiskey, and one minty.

High West Distillery and Saloon will be hosting their eighth annual Derby Day Celebration on May 6 from 2-6PM. The Derby will grace High West’s big screen at approximately 4:20 p.m. In addition to their usual drinks, the bar will be serving Yippee Ki-Yay, a distinct blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in wine barrels previously used to age robust wines. James Dumas, who is Head of Hospitality at High West, says that “Each year we host guests for Derby Day [and] it’s clear that race-day spectators often double as whiskey lovers.” The namesake for the beverage, of course, is a reference to southern culture. (Does this count as low-key cultural appropriation? The jury is out.) If you’re interested, tickets are $50, not including drinks.

But if you prefer the path of well-worn tradition, mint julep is the official drink of the event. It was declared so in 1938 (and the present year is the 143rd Derby) so, no pressure, but this is kind of a big deal. The governor of Kentucky even toasts the winner of the race with one in a silver cup. Salt Lake City offers their take on this drink at the following locations: Bourbon House (19 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-746-1005), Whiskey Street (323 Main Street, SLC, 801-433-1371), or Under Current (270 S. 300 East, SLC, 801-574-2556).

The Derby is one of the longest running annual sporting events in America, rich in Southern history and bourbon-soaked, high-stakes betting traditions. (However, if you want to bet on the derby—as is custom for the event—you’ll have to commit to a road trip to Nevada. Utah’s gambling laws don’t allow you to do so within Utah’s borders.) Most Southerners and fans of sports will agree that the Kentucky Derby is not to be missed—so be careful not to blink.

—by Amy Whiting

Salt Lake Magazine
Salt Lake Magazine
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