Editor’s note: Team Taste Test is an occasional, tongue-in-cheek series on dining by Oklahoma Gazette staff reporter Greg Elwell (and Gazette staff).
Big hats! People acting like the Triple Crown is important to them! Four hours of commercials for 30 seconds of horse racing!
Oh, the Kentucky Derby is coming to Churchill Downs (and TV sets around the world) on May 2, but more importantly, mint juleps are coming to people stomachs whenever they want to make them.
But if you’re sans mint, sugar and bourbon, but you still want to taste like a racetrack, then the good people at Old Forester have the pre-mixed cocktail for you.
Old Forester claims the title of The First Bottled Bourbon and Louisville’s Hometown Bourbon. Their new product, weighing in at a stout 30 percent ABV, is Old Forester Mint Julep — the Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby. And, for one fateful afternoon at the Oklahoma Gazette, it was the Official Drink of the West Conference Room After 4 p.m. Because Let’s Not Get Crazy, Greg.
So I cracked open the horse-emblazoned bottle of mint julep and started pouring it over ice for my formerly friendly co-workers and this is what they said.
Production director Mandy Coakley said it tasted like “a bunch of mint needed to take a long soak in a cheap bourbon.”
While it gets the job done, she wasn’t exactly eager to serve it to people she likes.
The aesthetic appeal of the bottle grabbed account executive Leah Roberts by the reins, but she thought the taste was “like cheap whisky and Rumplemintz.”
“I don’t think I would order that anywhere…or buy it….like ever,” she said.
Graphic designer Ashley Parks said it’s the bourbon drink for non-bourbon drinkers.
“I think my overall perception is that if you just absolutely must have bourbon at a get-together (like, to watch the Kentucky Derby), and some of your guests don’t like bourbon, this is the beverage for you.”
Photographer Garett Fisbeck had no trouble with the drink, but the aftertaste “like I had just chewed on a piece of spearmint gum for 3 hours” was not pleasant.
Copy editor Brittany Pickering thought the taste reminiscent of a cocktail of bourbon and mouthwash.
“It wasn’t bad,” she said. “But it wasn’t great.”
Advertising and marketing director Christy Duane said she thought she could blow a 2.2 on a Breathalizer machine “just off of the fumes I inhaled while walking towards the bottle.”
She recommended it for use in sterilization, anesthesia or Molotov cocktails.
Despite the “rough” taste, receptionist Arden Biard kept drinking it.
“Would I buy it? No,” she said. “Would I drink it if it was served to me? I’m a twenty-something who will drink most things … so yes.”
Account executive Saundra Godwin isn’t normally a whiskey fan, but found Old Forester “nicely infused and refreshing to my taste buds.”
For traffic coordinator Shawna Deeds, the pre-mixed mint juleps “tastes like my freshmen year of college gone wrong” but said it would be perfect for a derby-themed frat party.
Graphic designer Paul Mays likened it to a glazed doughnut, slathered in wedding mint frosting, dipped in cheap whiskey–but he still went back for seconds.
And account executive Sarah Brigance said it’s an acquired taste, which got better as she continued to drink it.
“It’s almost 5:30 p.m. and I’m still at work…and I am okay with that thanks to the drink-y drink.”
While I’ve never been particularly partial to the mint julep, I will give it up to Old Forester for being quite smooth and sweet. The odor from the bottle may hit heavy with the weight of alcohol, but the actual beverage lacked the fiery sting of cheap bourbon.
The main drawback was the fierce minty aftertaste. On the other hand, none of us needed gum after we were done drinking it.
And, at 30 percent alcohol by volume, the pre-mixed cocktail definitely loosened everyone up for the end of a normally stressful Monday. Old Forester, we salute you.