Every year around this time, much of America remembers its love for the julep. A shame, since the drink has just about as much history as the most requested classic cocktails served today, and no, the combination of spirit, ice and mint did not come together simply for the spectacle of a horse race.

Though bourbon is best, not only in terms of heritage, but also flavor, there are plenty of alternative spirit combinations that can work well in this drink, including bitters. Averna, one of the more accessible Italian amaros with its dark root, herb and caramel notes, could have very well gained popularity below the Mason-Dixon line in the late 1800’s, given its similarity to the root, herb and caramel flavor base of Coca-Cola. In the Amaro Julep, those notes stand out, as does the fruity, molasses funk from the Jamaican rum, often too intense to just sip on its own. Similar to egg white cocktails, juleps have a way of taking intense flavors and tempering the bite of the alcohol through mint and ice.

One thing that can’t be ignored in the julep is keeping it as cold as possible before it’s served. With the amount of surface are created by the cracked or crushed ice, this drink will melt faster than any other in the heat, leaving a diluted pile of flavored water in the end. If you’re making juleps at home this Derby Day, it’s hard to improve upon the original, but for a little Italian influence, this will certainly be a crowd-pleaser.