It is the first weekend in May, and that means it is time for the Running for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby. I have absolutely no interest in horse racing, to be honest. But this race always seems to capture my imagination anyway. Horses are magnificent creatures in the middle of a race. I just have no interest in the personalities of the owners or trainers, nor do I have any desire to bet on races. All this means I just don’t watch horse racing. But on Derby Day, for a brief moment, I buy into the idea that we are watching
the most exciting two minutes in sports.
And besides, the personalities and activity surrounding the Derby are classic. The whole experience is filled with outrageous, time-honored, customs and accessories. The day is usually hot and stifling. The derby-goers are in need of cooling down and relief from the baking sun in the stands and on the infield. So let’s talk about the classic centerpiece of that relief:
Talk about the drink.
Now hold on!
I love that hat!
That said, I’m thirsty, too.
Ok guys, I’ll get to the main event. This is a cocktail blog, not a millinery site.
The traditional refreshment of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. I’ve blogged about it before, but I think it is worth examining each year at this time. It is a good cocktail that deserves a far better fate than it has been consigned to in the modern age.
I suggested a much more complex recipe before. This time, I’m going with a more mainstream and much easier to construct drink, while still maintaining enough elaborate preparation to impress your non-cocktailian friends.
Here are the simple ingredients:
- 2 oz. Quality bourbon
- 2 nice sprigs of fresh mint
- 2 sugar cubes
- 2 chunks and one spear of fresh pineapple
I actually like to go with Rye in most circumstances when I make a Julep, but on Derby Day, you really do have to go with a good Kentucky Bourbon, like Bulleit. Strip the leaves (about 10 to 12) from one of the mint sprigs and place in a large old fashioned glass. put the chunks of pineapple and the sugar cubes atop like so:
Simple syrup would dissolve easier than the sugar cubes, but the cubes look cooler as you prepare the drink, and the abrasiveness of the sugar helps release the minty oils and break down the leaves. Muddle until you have a mottled yellow and green paste in the bottom after a minute or so. It needs to be more smashed than this:
Plop in several nice big ice cubes and the bourbon. Stir gently to combine and garnish with the pineapple spear and the second sprig of mint. Reserve the better looking sprig for the garnish.
The resulting drink needs a hot day to really work. The aromatics come out to play in the heat. And more to the point, this drink is designed to treat what ails a hot and thirsty mouth. It isn’t really suitable for an indoor cocktail party in the Fall.
Riders, to the Post!