If you can’t have a bit of fun with your cocktailing, when can you? (photo courtesy of the brand)

Many, many are the bourbon brands that try to align themselves with the Kentucky Derby. Few, though, are those who go the lengths gone to by Old Forester. Last year, in a dash of silliness that feels even more welcome just about now, their marketing folks created a Kentucky Turtle Derby. It’s pretty much what you’d imagine, and it’s back again, and slower than ever.

A small herd of turtles is placed in the center of a circle, and the first to reach the diameter’s border is declared the winner and, presumably, given some roses to eat. This year’s favorite filly is Lady Greenery, at 4-1, though I like the look of longshot MoeLasses (30-1) and find a sleepy terp named “Steve,” at 50-1, hard to resist.

It is, of course, a social media boondoggle. All this past week, fans who visited the brand’s Instagram page could vie for a chance to have their name and photo placed atop one of the competing turtles as a kind of virtual jockey.

I was able to resist that particular creative flourish, but others drew me in. The venue for the race, for instance, is named Churchill Downsized. It all brings a little smile because in truth Old Forester is a legit, old school American spirit. We praised its new limited edition not long ago—and it has always been on our short list of great weekday values. 

Next year, I’m sure, I will have less truck with these shenanigans—less, even, than I ever had with the Puppy Bowl, which has been around since 2005. That is, for far too long. And I say this as a lover of puppies. But for now, a stiff refreshing cocktail and a chance for side betting… for now, I say, why not?

The turtles will be on the bourbon’s YouTube channel tomorrow at 4 p.m. eastern, a couple of hours before the real race’s post time.

The signature cocktail the brand came up with sounds refreshing—the Slow Jito. As you will see, it is essentially a Julep, prettied up with lime. On occasions like Derby weekend, we ourselves do not mess with the classics; today is for The Oaks Lily, for instance. And tomorrow we will be dusting off our metal cups. But knock yourself out. What have you got to lose?

The Slow Jito

Official Drink of the 2021 Old Forester Kentucky Turtle Derby

1.5 oz Old Forester 86 Proof

0.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice – or – ½ lime

0.5 oz Simple Syrup

6 Mint Leaves

Club soda, to top (about 2 oz)

Muddle the first 4 ingredients together in a shaker and shake with ice. Add club soda to shaker, pour into glass. Garnish with mint sprig.