Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Great Derby Tradition

As March Madness is officially over, sports fans needn’t fret.  Kentucky is not only about great basketball and great bourbon, it’s also about “the greatest two minutes in sports”… I am referring to the Kentucky Derby, which is held each year on the first Saturday of May.
The Derby, soon to be 139 years old, is not just about horseracing.  It’s about tradition and style – it’s about horses, food, fashion, entertaining, and the beloved Mint Julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.

I had the pleasure of living in the Bluegrass state from my middle school through college years.   This is when my love affair with the Derby began.  As the Derby is held early in May, it always fell on prom night.  For three years, I kept my prom dates waiting, not for me to get ready, but because I couldn’t miss the Derby or the Run for the Roses.

It was not until I was a college freshman when I went to my first Kentucky Derby, which also happened to be on my 19th birthday. Being my birthday, I was feeling very lucky, so I wagered on a horse named Cousin Jen.  Her performance yielded me $4.

As it was a very warm day, I felt it was the perfect time to try a Mint Julep, which looked so cold and refreshing.  Having little experience in the Kentucky Bourbon department, I could barely get it down the hatch; however, I took great comfort in knowing that I got to keep the special glass that it came in. 

Twenty years later, my collection of Derby glasses has grown from 1 to more than I have room for.  My knowledge of Kentucky bourbon is about the same.  I make a mean Derby pie and make pretty hats for our Derby party guests.  However, what my husband and I enjoy the most about the Derby is the opportunity to share its great southern traditions with our family and friends in our home in the good old Midwest.

The Early Times Mint Julep
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
Sprigs fresh mint
Crushed ice
Early Times Kentucky Whiskey
Silver Julep Cups

Make simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

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