Interview: Elizabeth McCall “What Does A Kentucky Derby $1K Mint Julep Look Like?”

Elizabeth McCall is Woodford Reserve’s Assistant Master Distiller. She is eagerly preparing for the Kentucky Derby but took some time to tell us about Woodford Reserve’s newest $1K Mint Julep! The most important thing to know is that all of the proceeds from the $1,000 Mint Julep Cup are benefiting the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund.

Woodford Reserve’s® 2018 Recipe
2 oz. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1 tsp Kentucky Sorghum Syrup from Woodford County Kentucky
2 Leaves of Kentucky Colonel Mint
Garnish: 3 small red roses, a sprig of mint and a single rose petal from the garland of roses draped on the winning derby horse.

Woodford Reserve’s® 2018 $1K Mint Julep Instructions
Rub mint around the julep cup, expressing the essential oils. Add remaining ingredients and top with crushed ice made from limestone-filtered water sourced from the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Churn ingredients with a bar spoon distributing the flavor. Top with additional crushed ice and garnish

Check out our interview and the The Woodford Reserve Spire recipe below:

Woodford Reserve 2018 Kentucky Derby $1K Mint Julep on equality365.comEarle Dutton (ED): How did the idea for a $1000 Mint Julep come about?
Elizabeth McCall (EM): The idea for a $1000 Mint Julep came about by wanting to create something that was just a little over the top, as all things Derby should be, something that would turn heads and generate buzz, most importantly it is a way for Woodford Reserve to tie in charitable giving to the Kentucky Derby excitement. All proceeds go to a Kentucky based or equine based non-profit.

ED: What does “Best of Kentucky on Kentucky’s Best Day” mean to you?
EM: The “Best of Kentucky on Kentucky’s Best Day” holds a lot of meaning to me. Derby Day come rain or shine, “the sun shine’s bright in the old Kentucky home” no matter what. This year we are celebrating everything about Kentucky that makes bourbon and horses, two major Kentucky traditions, so special. From the ingredients for the $1000 Mint Julep Cup recipe, all sourced from Woodford County, in Kentucky, where the Woodford Reserve Distillery sits to our new partnership with Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and the amazing horses that all this excitement revolves around. Woodford Reserve wants to invite everyone to be a Kentuckian on Derby Day.

ED: Realizing there is an amazing history and splendor to the Kentucky Derby, do you have any fun ideas for people celebrating at home (in the PNW)?
EM: I encourage everyone to be a Kentuckian on Derby Day, even if you are on the other side of the world! It’s just too much fun, to not. Some ideas for how you can join Woodford Reserve and Derby like a Kentuckian are:

  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon for your Mint Julep and Spire cocktails.
  • For the ladies a fun had or fascinator and for the gentlemen a great bright suit or shirt.
  • Have fun Derby Race pool, where everyone draws one of the horse’s numbers from a hat to cheer on. You don’t have to be an expert on horse racing to pick a horse to cheer on to the finish line!
  • Of course you should always serve food when serving any type of alcoholic beverage. Some Kentucky favorite bites are; cheese dips such as Benedictine spread, mini Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches, beer cheese, country ham and biscuits, chocolate-bourbon nut pie (Derby pie).

ED: What sets limestone-filtered water apart?
EM: What makes limestone-filtered water so important to making good bourbon and strong horses is it’s rich minerality. The limestone imparts calcium, magnesium, and potassium into the water in Kentucky as it filters through the limestone shelf. At Woodford Reserve we pump our water directly from the well to our mash cooker, we are not required to filter this water since it’s  not exposed to possible contaminants, allowing us to retain all that great minerality!

ED: How did you pick or even narrow down the symbolism on the cups?
EM: This year we are featuring the elements that link the new partnership of Woodford Reserve with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. There is an engraving the goes around the cup to symbolize the limestone water that links the great horses in Kentucky with the great bourbon in Kentucky. There is a galloping race horse, a bottle of Woodford Reserve, and a rose, and for the first time, features the twin spires in the center, all tying together this new partnership between Woodford Reserve and Churchill Downs. We are very excited about what this year’s cup symbolizes.

ED: What is your favorite memory of the Derby?
EM: I’ve been attending the Kentucky Derby since I was a senior in high school. It is my favorite time of year, it’s hard to put into words, but Kentucky is just radiant at Derby time! Being at the track just before the sun comes up, the air is bustling with the sound of horse hooves on the pavement and the sweet aromatics of the horse barns. As an equestrian myself, it fills my heart with pure joy. Then to hear the horses go galloping by as they are breezing gives you goose bumps. The most memorable moment was from one of my first Derby working for Woodford Reserve. We went down to the second turn on Derby day for a media spot. The over flowing grandstand and iconic twin spires were in full view as I got to stand at the rail when the horses came flying by. It was such a unique experience that I will never forget it.

ED: What flavors are we looking for in the best bourbon?
EM: Woodford Reserve contains over 212 flavors that gives it the great complexity and balance that pleases every palate. In any glass of Woodford Reserve Bourbon you will find sweet aromatics, spice, fruit & floral, grain character, as well as wood notes. This complexity and balance is what makes it so diverse, you can enjoy it neat or on the rocks or dress it up in a delicious cocktail. There is no wrong way to enjoy Woodford Reserve.

ED: What does Kentucky Straight Bourbon really mean?
EM: Kentucky Straight Bourbon means that it follows the bourbon rules, this bourbon is produced in Kentucky, and it has been matured for a minimum of 2 years.

ED: How hard do the horses and jockeys work to make it to this day?
EM: I am not a jockey, but I am a horse owner and equestrian, and the level of dedication and passion that both the horses and jockey’s must have to make it to this level is unprecedented. Preparing for the Kentucky Derby is a daily thing, it’s not just a job for these jockey’s, it’s their life. It’s the same for these horses, a daily schedule to keep them at the top of their game. The horses that you will watch run on Derby Day love to run fast. They get amped up just like humans do before a big event.

woodford reserve spire recipe on equality365.comED: Realizing we are talking about Mint Juleps here. Are there any other recipes you would recommend to really compliment your bourbon?
EM: Yes, I have one more recipe that will certainly please on Derby day or any day! This cocktail will be a regular signature drink of Churchill Downs.

The Woodford Reserve Spire
1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
2 oz. Lemonade
1 oz. Cranberry Juice
Lemon Twist garnish

Serve over ice and garnish with a lemon twist

The Kentucky Derby is this weekend, May 5, at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY. Celebrate responsibly!

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Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton is the Chief Blogger and Editor of He founded in 2013 to provide information about LGBTQ friendly events of interest, and to support LGBTQ entertainers and supportive artists who visit our community. Earle is a successful businessman in the Pacific Northwest with a long history of support for and involvement in, the Northwest LGBTQ community. His personal interests include: music, theater, pets, culinary arts and technology.

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