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A Sure Bet: Award-Winning Rose Juleps

blog | 03/16/2020

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There’s no doubt that May won’t be the same without the Derby being run, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t savor a taste of the season with a mint julep. Over the years, bartenders have continually put unique twists on this classic cocktail, but which julep recipe reigns supreme? We partnered with the Kentucky Derby Festival to find out. The results are in – check out the winning juleps to handcraft at home.

Six bartenders from across the region competed for top honors at the 17th annual Rose Julep Cocktail Competition at Mellwood Arts Center, as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s “Festival Unveiled” event on Thursday, March 5. A panel of expert judges and the public chose the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice winning juleps, respectively.

Mixologist Giacomo Ciminello of Cincinnati’s Night Drop took home the Judges’ Choice award for “The Side Eye,” a unique cocktail that mingles Four Roses Small Batch with Branca Mentha, Angostura Bitters, orgeat syrup, cacao and mint.

Find the recipe here.

Bartender Jason Stark of Louisville’s Martini Italian Bistro claimed the People’s Choice title for “The Perfect Pear,” a creative mint julep comprised of Four Roses Small Batch, pear, lemon juice, Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters, Ale 8 and mint.

Find the recipe here.

The top six finalists who qualified for this year’s competition included:

  • Travis Shireman, Taj, Louisville
  • Jason Stark, Martini Italian Bistro, Louisville
  • Katie Sherman, Goodfella’s Wise Guy Lounge, Lexington
  • Oliver Winn, Elixir, Lexington
  • Giacomo Ciminello, Night Drop, Northern Kentucky
  • Bill Whitlow, Rich’s Proper Food & Drink, Northern Kentucky

The event drew hundreds of people who sampled the competitors’ cocktails and voted for the People’s Choice winner. The judges scored the juleps based on aroma, creativity, taste and presentation.

Official competition judges included Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival CEO; Kathryn Gregory, The Courier-Journal; Sarah Shadburne, Business First of Louisville; Scott Recker, LEO Weekly; Joe Daily, United States Bartenders Guild; Colleen McCarthy-Clarke, mixologist and 2019 contest winner; Sara Havens, The Bar Belle; and Monica Wolf, Bourbon Women Association.

Congratulations to the winners! If you handcraft one of these award-winning juleps at home, be sure to share a photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag us so we can check it out.


Mixologist Giacomo Ciminello of Cincinnati’s Night Drop serving up the Judges’ Choice award winning cocktail, “The Side Eye.”


Bartender Jason Stark of Louisville’s Martini Italian Bistro showcasing the People’s Choice award winning cocktail, “The Perfect Pear.”




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