I stopped by Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar, the stylish new restaurant in the Spire whose bar is stashed behind floor-to-ceiling, chain-link drapes, just before the Kentucky Derby -- which was why the bartender's suggestion of a Green Tea Mint Julep ($10) seemed like a sacrilege. Some things, like mint juleps, are sacred: The drink dates back to London in 1803, but since 1938 it has been the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, traditionally made with just bourbon, simple syrup and mint.
So even though the Green Tea Mint Julep uses Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey as its "bourbon" of choice, it also includes green tea, honey, lemon and mint -- which made me very nervous.
Surprisingly, I found that the green tea improved the cocktail: While I couldn't taste much tea, it seemed to minimize the sweetness of the julep -- and that excessive sweetness has always been my one challenge to consuming multiple juleps.
Inspired, I next went for the Cupp O Spring ($10), Row 14's take on another classic, the Pimm's Cup. Made with Pimm's No.1, Hangar One Mandarin Blossom, ginger beer, lime and cucumber, it was so tasty that I wondered why the original Pimm's Cup didn't incorporate ginger beer. In a pinch, I've had a Pimm's Cup made with ginger ale, but the ginger beer offers a welcome twist to the old standby.
With the Belmont on Saturday, the big three horse races of the season are over -- but Row 14 has come up with a string of winners right out of the gate.