Whether one is a horse racing fan or not, the Kentucky Derby is a marquee event every year that usually encourages some boozing. The springtime cocktail most associated with the Derby is a mint julep — bourbon with simple syrup, crushed ice, and sprigs of mint. Though the cocktail sounds basic enough, getting the right mix of sweetness and liquor without being too overwhelming isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are some excellent drinks specialists around town to get you in high spirits during the Run for the Roses. Note: the race begins early on the West Coast: post time is around 3:57 p.m., airing on NBC.
Sunset Hill’s drinks destination features a mix of classic cocktails with more original creations. This weekend, it will revive its version of a Derby-influenced julep with a strawberry-rhubarb syrup, served ice cold in the appropriate silver glassware. It’s open for takeout and limited onsite seating (including a well-conceived garden patio area), though you may have to go elsewhere to catch the race itself, since there are no TVs.
Columbia City’s divey favorite leans into a selection of slushies during warmer weather, and the Derby weekend will be no exception. Those looking for both takeout and onsite dining can order up a mint julep slushie. While it may sound like a standard party drink, the bar is so meticulous with its ingredients that it almost wasn’t going to roll with the selection unless the mint available was up to their standards, and fortunately Frank’s Produce came through.
Belltown’s cocktail wonder isn’t the first place one might go for major sporting events, but it’s getting into the Derby mood. As is the running theme for the French-influenced drinks den, Roquette’s version of a julep features bourbon, cognac, peach, mint, and peychaud bitters. There are a few fancy bar snacks available as well, such as caviar, but available for limited onsite eating and imbibing only.
The Sloop Tavern
While several of the places on this list are more about the drinks than the actual Derby itself, one can’t forget about the “most exciting two minutes in sports.” Many dive bars in Seattle are still hanging around, but for a solid no-frills race watching experience, few can beat this nautical Queen Anne pub, which serves up potent drinks and a decent burger. There’s takeout, as well as limited indoor and outdoor seating, plus the occasional tomato plant pop-up on weekends.
Stampede Cocktail Club
This Fremont hot spot has one of the most elaborate drinks menus in the city, with mini stories that accompany many of the selections, and a robust spirits list at the ready. Juleps here come with plenty of narrative flair, the dumplings are solid, and the outdoor patio is great for pregaming. Like a lot of cocktail bars, there are no TVs, so best to bounce to some of the sportier spots down the block when the Derby begins.