A mint julep is the quintessential drink for the Kentucky Derby — the largest-attended horse race in North America. Owen Burke, co-owner of Detroit’s Firebird Tavern, has been attending the high-stakes Louisville tourney for the past 12 years, making him a likely source to create a local take on the Derby classic. Burke’s Monroe Street joint is a partner of Woodford Reserve, the maker of the official bourbon for the Kentucky Derby. “It’s the star of the show,” he says in reference to the spirit, which takes center stage in the cocktail. To celebrate the race, Firebird Tavern is hosting a Derby viewing-party on May 4, where Burke’s fresh mint juleps will be flowing and guests’ oversized hats will be aplenty.
Gently press the mint to express the oil and rub inside of a highball glass. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice, and stir. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint.