How to make a Fascinator, a minty Kentucky Derby mixed drink that isn’t a julep– or made with bourbon

How to make a Fascinator, a minty Kentucky Derby mixed drink that isn’t a julep– or made with bourbon

Ask the Oracle Pour: What should I drink today? All signs indicate the Fascinator, a classic gin mixed drink

The Fascinator( Illustration by Ilana Lidagoster/Salon)

The Oracle Pour” is Beauty salon Food’s spirits column that assists you decide what to consume tonight.

Think about the traditional beverage: eggnog at Christmas, champagne on New Year’s Eve, mint juleps on Kentucky Derby Day The latter might be the only day of the year in which the mint julep is encouraged– basic syrup can make bourbon, currently on the sweeter side of whiskies, a bit cloying, while the mint, typically a welcome addition, in some way manages to make it even worse — however the power of tradition still makes it a required offering. And then there are those upholders of great taste who would never ever buy a julep but do firmly insist that Kentucky bourbon is the only beverage that matters when gathering on this day. But what if you don’t desire bourbon? What to drink rather?

Custom can trick us into overlooking our own preferences and bending to the will of the collective. What excellent does it do to promote a custom when it does not make you feel more connected to the common experience through time? And yet, there can be excellent meaning to be mined from participating in those traditions, particularly where food, beverage and celebrations are worried. So here is a word I discover beneficial when thinking about how to participate in traditions: Once Consume a mint julep made with Kentucky bourbon while watching the Kentucky Derby as soon as Use an outrageous hat while doing so as soon as Select a horse to cheer on, whether you understand anything about racing or not, as soon as Try it, and if it’s not for you, do not do it again.

With all traditions and habits, it’s valuable check in with yourself regularly: Is this still serving you?

Preventing the conventional beverage doesn’t mean you can’t honor the event with a proper, joyful cocktail. After all, new traditions can be made with one great put.

Fascinators– fanciful little bits of millinery confection connected to a headband or clip– are simply as traditional at the Kentucky Derby as ornately decorated large-brimmed hats. In Harry Craddock’s “ The Savoy Cocktail Book,” that cash cow of classic recipes from 1930, I discovered a cocktail named the Fascinator, an anise-kissed riff on the martini: two parts gin, one part French vermouth and a number of dashes of Pernod, garnished with a sprig of mint.

For this recipe, I’ve added some flourishes of my own: muddling fresh mint to completely launch its springy essence; switching the vermouth for Lillet Blanc because its fruity notes play so perfectly with gin; and finishing it with a few dashes of orange bitters, which help connect all of it together.


Serving size: scales up or down

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part Lillet Blanc
  • Pernod
  • Orange bitters
  • A handful of fresh mint, plus extra sprigs on stems for garnish


You do not need any specialized devices to mix a basic cocktail. Improvise with what you have. However here’s what I keep at hand for this drink:


Tuck cocktail glasses into the freezer for a fast chill while you mix this drink. In a mixed drink shaker, muddle a handful of torn mint entrusts a gentle splash of Pernod. Include the ice, then gin, Lillet blanc and a couple of dashes of orange bitters. Shake, then strain with the fine mesh strainer— to keep all the mint leaf bits from clouding your drink– into a chilled mixed drink glass Garnish with a luxurious sprig of mint.


Craddock’s dish calls for French vermouth, which martini lovers may choose. ( If you’re thoroughly selecting good gins for your house bar, but your vermouths are an afterthought, reconsider that method. Explore the excellent stuff, and find one you like.) Attempt it with Lillet Rosé for a pink twist. You can also try out different bitters to add subtle flourishes to this really remixable beverage.

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Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Beauty salon’s Editor in Chief.

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