The History of Derby Day and a Delicious Drink for Any Day

The Kentucky Derby has a rich history behind it—and our take on the perfect Derby Day cocktail, the Real Georgia Man Mint Julep, does, too!

Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of famed frontier explorer William Clark, fell in love with thoroughbred horse racing during a trip to Paris and decided to bring it to his home state of Kentucky. He founded the Louisville Jockey Club in 1872, and built Churchill Downs shortly after. The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875 at the famed racetrack, and has since become the most iconic event in American horse racing.

Held on the first weekend of May each year, the Kentucky Derby is not only a major sporting event, it is a much-anticipated social affair. At Derby parties across the country, women don fascinator hats, men often sport seersucker suits and partiers mix up the iconic mint julep. The bourbon, mint and sugar syrup cocktail made its debut at Churchill Downs in 1939 and remains a symbol of racing festivities today.

Bay Arnold, wife of The Fort’s founder Samuel, was from an old Georgia family with deep southern roots. Her family claims ancestry to Sir Frances Marion, known as “Swampfox,” who helped the Patriots win the Revolutionary War. The Arnolds believed these southern ties entitled them to create a true mint julep, and so, the recipe for the Real Georgia Man Mint Julep was born.

The Fort's Hailstorm Julep

According to Samuel, “Every southern colonel had his favorite recipe, but this version, served in Mason jars in a tradition that began at the Kentucky horse races, is so good you’ll feel like a hog in hickory nuts.” That’s a ringing endorsement!

This Kentucky Derby-inspired cocktail is offered on The Fort’s Fur Trapper Potables menu year round—and is best enjoyed on our lovely patio! Simple to make, the Real Georgia Man Mint Julep is sure to be a favorite on Derby Day, or any day at all.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tsp. cold water
  • 1 tsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 12 sprigs fresh mint leaves
  • 3 oz. Cognac
  • 3 oz. peach brandy or whiskey
  • Crushed ice to fill a wide-mouthed pint Mason jar or julep cup


Place the water in the jar. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the mint, Cognac and peach brandy and fill the jar with ice. Stir with a spoon (be careful not to crush the mint) and enjoy straight from the jar!

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