Where to go, what to drink: Your guide to getting down and Derby in Charleston

Off to the races

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My mom (far left), aunt, and uncle. Kentucky Derby, 1978. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • My mom (far left), aunt, and uncle. Kentucky Derby, 1978.
I’ve been watching the Kentucky Derby since I was a kid, standing in awe in front of a TV, mouth agape at what always seemed like both an impossibly long and impossibly short race. Unfamiliar with horses, I would inadvertently cringe at the speed and power of the beasts, hoping they weren’t hurting themselves. The jockeys’ whips saddened me as much as I could be saddened, and then suddenly distracted, off to the next long and short event of the day.

My mother spent ages 12-18 in Louisville, KY. It’s where she says she’s from. When she was 16 she sat in a box owned by the tobacco company her father worked for. At 20 she sat in the stands, maybe drinking, probably not. She was tame back then.

Every year I say I'll go to the Derby, but I have yet to make the trek. Until then, here's what Charleston has to offer:

PARTIES 

Bay Street Biergarten's party, 5-8 p.m., will have mint juleps and beer specials, along with an unconventional hat contest, where guests can design and wear a derby hat inspired by their favorite beverage for the chance to win $25.

Home Team BBQ downtown will feature frozen mint juleps and food specials.

Listen to live music from the Moonshiners while enjoying food specials like hot browns and, of course, drinks like mint juleps at Tavern & Table from 5-8 p.m.

The Rooftop at the Vendue hosts Seersucker Saturday where they will serve $9 mint juleps, derby-themed drink specials, live music from the Lowhills and a best dressed and best hat contest from 3-7 p.m. 

Head to The Alley for live music from the Bluestone Ramblers, mint juleps, and horse bettin'. 

Listen to live music from the New South Jazz Band at Prohibition, where you can also enjoy a $7 mint julep menu featuring the original, as well as pineapple, rhubarb, jalapeño, and peach julep flavors. The party kicks off at 4:30 p.m. 

On Forty-One
hosts a derby party with $5 specialty cocktails, a Derby-inspired menu, live music, and a best hat contest, from 3-8 p.m. 

Get a taste of The Glass Onion's special mint julep ($5), made with S.C. Blenheim spicy ginger ale. 

Little Jack's Tavern will be serving mint juleps all day long, along with Benedictine tea sandwiches after 3 p.m. Guests can watch the race on the Tavern's 60-inch TV.

The Glass Onion's mint julep has elements of a bourbon ginger. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • The Glass Onion's mint julep has elements of a bourbon ginger.
RECIPES 
If you prefer to watch the horse race from the comfort of your house party, you may want to shake up some drinks with S.C.'s own Virgil Kaine whiskey. Here are two takes on the cocktail:

The Captain’s Julep
Handful of mint
Brown sugar cube
.75 oz simple syrup
.5 oz navy strength rum
2 oz Virgil Kaine Robber Baron Rye Whiskey

Add all ingredients in a shaker (except rye whiskey) and muddle. Add rye, swirl and pour into a chilled julep cup. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with mint and grated nutmeg. 

Banana Julep
Handful of mint
4 dashes chocolate bitters
.25 oz cane syrup
.75 oz banana liqueur (DeKuyper)
1.5 oz Virgil Kaine High Rye Bourbon

Add all ingredients in a shaker (except bourbon) and muddle. Add bourbon, swirl and pour into a chilled julep cup. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with mint and grated nutmeg. 




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