The special-edition cocktails (and cups) from Woodford Reserve sell out every year.
Last week, Churchill Downs announced its official menu for the 145th Kentucky Derby. The spread, created by executive chef David Danielson, features pimento cheese dip and bourbon citrus salmon (naturally). But while the menu draws hype on its own, Churchill Downs is also famous for serving a $1,000 mint julep—yes, one thousand dollars—created by Woodford Reserve for the past 14 years. Each year, the recipe is different, and deviates from the traditional julep made with simple syrup, fresh mint, bourbon, and crushed ice. They’re only served in special collectible cups (hence the hefty price tag), which became available to purchase online Wednesday in advance of the May event—with your choice of silver or gold-plated silver.
Since this year’s Derby is the 145th installation, Woodford Reserve is paying homage with the recipe. The julep uses Kentucky honey, aged in an oak barrel for 145 days inside the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs—the first time anything has ever been aged in the Twin Spires, the company claims. There’s also locally grown mint, the quintessential crushed ice, and of course, Woodford Reserve bourbon, all muddled together and garnished with a honeycomb and more mint.
As for the cups, the silver edition is priced at $1,000 and the gold-plated silver costs $2,500—all proceeds will go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund at Western Kentucky University. Only 125 silver cups and 20 gold-plated silver cups have been made, for a grand total of 145. Purchase not only grants you access to unlimited $1,000 mint juleps, but also the Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep Tent, where you can meet master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall, grab photo-opps with a life-size model of the $1,000 mint julep, and, of course, drink juleps. (Louisville can get hot in May, so you’ll be glad for them and the tent).
If you plan on attending the Derby in May and have an extra $1,000 to $2,500 to burn, cups are available to pre-purchase until April 30 and must be picked up at Churchill Downs on May 4, aka Derby Day. Whatever cups don’t sell online can be purchased day-of for access to the $1,000 juleps and tent; however, Morris and McCall told us they consistently sell out every year. In 2018, Woodford Reserve expected to sell 5,000 juleps (including the $1,000 julep and regular mint juleps, sold separately)—in the end, the total was over 55,000, and Morris and McCall expect to sell even more this year.