I am forever grateful for the day I learned of mint julep (crushed ice, mellow Bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint, all muddled together in a silver julep cup) variations thanks to the annual Four Roses Rose Julep Cocktail Competition, which returns for its 15th running this Thursday, March 1 at Mellwood Arts Center.  I was not a fan of the classic drink until I tried one of the variations with chocolate. Four Roses and the Kentucky Derby Festival have partnered together again this year to find out which of eight Louisville  bartenders will deliver the best twist at  the Kentucky Derby Festival’s “Festival Unveiled” event, beginning at 5 p.m.

The finalists who qualified for this year’s competition include:

  • Mark Corley, The Silver Dollar
  • Dane Durand, Proof on Main
  • Amy Fisher, Meta
  • Drew Hutchison, Portage House
  • Colleen McCarthy-Clarke, Martini Italian Bistro
  • Karla Plott, Down One Bourbon Bar
  • Keri Smith, Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar
  • Jason Stark, Martini Italian Bistro

These eight finalists have been selected from a group of nearly 20 applicants to compete for the top honors of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice. The creative mixologists have handcrafted mint julep recipes all their own, using either Four Roses Bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch or Four Roses Single Barrel, along with an array of unique ingredients. A panel of beverage industry experts will taste and score the juleps based on aroma, creativity, taste and presentation.

The public is also invited to help judge the entries. Bourbon lovers can sample all eight Rose Julep recipes and cast their votes for the “People’s Choice” category. Tickets to Festival Unveiled and Rose Julep cost $30 in advance and can be purchased online. This event will begin at 5 p.m.

For more information about Rose Julep, visit www.fourrosesbourbon.com/15th-annual-rose-julep/.