These Virgin Strawberry Mint Juleps are great for a Kentucky Derby party with kids or make the perfect drink for a casual summer barbecue.
Updated from the archives.
I had heard of the Kentucky Derby growing up. I mean, I knew what it was. I just never watched it or cared two hoots about it.
Then I married Michael. And, it turns out, his whole family is very into the Kentucky Derby. Everyone chooses a horse each year, and no matter where we’re living when the Derby happens, we all call and cheer and shout and celebrate over the phone together. The person whose horse places best wins glory, honor, and bragging rights for a full calendar year.
I’ve told this story before, but my first year, I was completely out of my element. What? We’re choosing horses? How do you even know what makes a good horse?
So, I ended up choosing the only filly (girl horse) in the race. She was adorable and her name was Eight Bells. Well, the race started and Eight Bells really took off. She started out in the back of the pack and slowly, she emerged neck and neck with the lead horse. Everyone was up on their feet shouting, and I kind of caught the excitement. Okay, this is what this is about. I guess this is kind of fun!
Neck and neck, Eight Bells and the lead horse were fighting it out to the finish. The horses battled it out, taking turns in the lead until they sped across the finish line and…
Eight Bells laid down and died right there on the track.
I’m not even kidding. Magic gone.
HORSES DIE IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY!? WHAT KIND OF SPORT IS THIS!?
It was very traumatic. In the eight years I’ve been participating (this will be my ninth), I haven’t experienced any results quite as unfortunate as the first year I watched The Derby. Instead, since this is a family tradition on Michael’s side, I still try to find the fun by choosing horses purely on their name. Why not choose a horse named Smarty Jones, or American Pharaoh, or Ocho Ocho Ocho, or Swagger Jagger?
The other fun part of Derby Day is, of course, the food. Traditional favorites like Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (which are what they serve in heaven, I’m sure), and Derby Pie (a chocolate walnut number that’ll knock your socks off/make your dentist a rich man) are totally worth the hype.
On the beverage front, Mint Juleps are the traditional Derby drink. They’re made from bourbon, water, ice, and mint. Taking into account the fact that we don’t drink and they’re nicknamed “the mouthwash drink,” I got it into my head a few years ago to try to make a, well, less toothpaste-y version.
These are the highlight of the day! The fresh strawberries and the ice, the sparkly fizz, and the brightness from the fresh mint are SO lovely together. This version isn’t too sweet and isn’t too minty. Our kids love it, and that’s saying something since they’ve turned inside out when they’ve tasted anything actually minty.
We’ve made them outside of Derby time because we like them so much. They’re awesome for a 4th of July barbecue or at the end of a long, hot pool day.
All I ask is that, every time you make one, you raise a glass to Eight Bells. May she rest in peace.
Wishing you a happy, life-scarring-event-free Derby Day!
Like this recipe? You might also like…
- Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwiches (these are SO GOOD)
- Strawberry Watermelon Popsicles
- Watermelon Refresher
- 1 heaping cup strawberries (frozen or fresh)
- 6-8 oz ginger ale
- 6-8 oz sparkling water (I love La Croix flavored sparkling water)
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- ice, to taste
- In a blender, pulse together the strawberries and ginger ale just a few times to break up the strawberries. (If you've got texture issues, you could totally puree until smooth. I just love the texture.)
- Pour in the sparkling water and mash the mint leaves into the pitcher or the cups to bruise the mint a bit (this will help it release its flavor).
- Add ice to taste and drink immediately!