The Mint Julep - paired with lamb meatballs

by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki

If you haven't heard yet, the Mint Julep and the Kentucky Derby are inextricably linked. Well, since 1875, anyway. That's when their marriage at Churchill Downs began, and since that year, the Mint Julep's popularity (and one can go so far as to say celebrity) has no doubt benefited from its close association with the fastest two minutes in sports.

Our close association with the Mint Julep began seven years ago when the two of us would sip them on a warm spring night on the terrace overlooking Brooklyn and Manhattan. One of our first terrace cocktail parties consisted of four friends and a dozen Mint Juleps among us. Needless to say the party ended when everyone's speech was compromised.

Lesson learned: one is enough.

Although much of our view of Brooklyn has been obscured by overdevelopment (some of our view of Manhattan is threatened as well), our love of the Mint Julep will never fade. It's one of our top five cocktails, and its slightly sweet, minty bourbon zing will keep us sipping until our last gallop around the track. Pair them with lamb meatballs with our special seasoning, add a dollop of tzatziki, and you are off!

The Mint Julep

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1/4-1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 8 spearmint leaves
  • shaved or crushed ice
  • spearmint sprig
  • shaved or crushed ice

Muddle leaves gently in simple syrup in a julep cup or similar glass. Add bourbon, then shaved ice all the way up to the top. Stir. Garnish with a mint sprig. Toss in a straw, if desired.

Lamb Meatballs (with tzatziki)


  • 3/4 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup panko
  • 1 stick real Ceylon cinnamon (you can substitute cassia)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. dried spearmint
  • 2 tsp.- 1 Tbsp. dried chopped garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, grape-seed oil, or canola oil

Grind cinnamon, spearmint, garlic, and coriander seeds finely. Add lamb, egg, panko, and ground spices to a bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands so that spices and egg blend evenly throughout the lamb.

Grab a bite-sized portion of meat and, with your palms, roll until meatball is round. Heat oil in a large skillet, then add meatballs. Spread them out so that they do not touch. Fry for three minutes, or until a nice char starts to develop, then flip (a teaspoon and a pair of tongs should do the trick). Fry for another 3 minutes. Remove from skillet. Serve with Tzatziki (see recipe, below).

Makes 4 dozen meatballs.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup peeled cucumber, grated

Grate cucumber into a small bowl. Add garlic and mix together. In another, larger bowl, combine olive oil and lemon juice. Fold in yogurt, followed by cucumber-garlic mixture. Chill for 30 minutes.

Cocktail Buzz is Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki

photo ┬ęSteve Schul, Cocktail Buzz