DEBORAH CROMBIE: It's Derby Day! I know I've written about the Kentucky Derby before--watching the Derby is a big tradition for me. I want to sit in my own living room in front of the big TV, and I watch every single minute of the programming from the time it starts. Friends are welcome--just don't talk during the race.
Who watched the Belmont last year? Oh, my gosh. I thought I might never see another Triple Crown winner! I did have a house full of people for that, and was glad I'd recorded the race. In fact, I've never erased it. It was fabulous.
But now let's get down to the important stuff. If you're going to watch hours of race coverage, you obviously need fortifying. I had heard all my life about mint juleps but I'd never had one. So a couple of years ago I looked up recipes and gave it a try. Yuck!! Honestly, I ended up pouring it down the sink. But there must be something to this, so I'm determined to give it another try.
I've read a dozen recipes. Some say muddle the mint with a teaspoon of sugar and add a teaspoon of water. Some say rub the mint on the inside of the glass or cup and use two teaspoons of simple syrup. Some say make mint-infused simple syrup. Some say just stick a sprig of mint in!
A couple of things seem to hold true overall:
It's nice if you have the cool silver cups, like the ones in the photo. But I don't. Sigh.
Ice is very important. It must be crushed. And not too wet. Blender crushed ice has to be drained. (Kayti and I are contemplating buying some from Sonic.)
And last but not least--it's really important to have good bourbon. The drink is basically bourbon over crushed ice with a tiny bit of sweetened mint. When a made a julep before I used Jack Daniels, and I think that was part of the problem. But what bourbon? (Not a bourbon drinker here, obviously...)
Some recipes even say you can top the bourbon and ice with a drizzle of dark rum. Now that sounds pretty good, but I can't image getting down a drink with two to three ounces of bourbon, AND rum, and still being awake for the race. And not sleeping for the rest of the day...
REDS, have any of you ever made a julep? Do you have the perfect formula?
And for those who would rather eat the mint--here's a Mint Julep Cupcake recipe. Don't these look fab? (I would never go to this much trouble, I'm afraid, but would love if someone made them for me.)
And by the way, I hope we will all be wearing our hats!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I don't really do mint juleps (shocking, I know, given my well-documented love of cocktails!), but I do love those silver cups. I have a friend with an inherited monogrammed set, which is Very Fancy, Indeed. I mean, you can have club soda and mint and feel quite glam.
I tend not to watch hose-racing as it makes me sad. I have read that horses are pushed well beyond their limits, made to race injured, and then overmedicated. I won't go into the gory details here, but The Atlantic did an eye-opening piece a while back. You can read it here.
HALLIE EPHRON: That's depressing about horse racing. My parents were big racing fans who had box seats at Hollywood Park. They'd work all morning and then go to the track. I even learned to read the racing form... sort of. And was allowed to bet. And lose.
I've only had mint juleps once - a friend had a Kentucky Derby party and made them for everyone. I don't remember if I liked them. But I love mojitos with fresh muddled mint and lime juice and sugar syrup and rum and club soda. Entirely different animal, right?
RHYS BOWEN: Count me among those who has never had a mint julep. But I do like mojitos so I think I might quite like it. And in Morocco I drank mint tea all the time. I do love watching horse racing. Our next door neighbor in Arizona owns race horses and we go to the races with him when he has a horse running. I have to confess it is a thrill to stand in the paddock before the race and chat with the trainer and jockey (who comes up to my shoulder). And even more of a thrill to stand in the winners circle. I 'd rather like to own a race horse, but as they cost $1500 s month to feed and train I think this will remain a dream.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh come on Rhys, get a horse! we'd all bet on it:). I don't do bourbon after an unfortunate incident in college. And I will say nothing more on that subject. But we do love mojitos, and John makes a killer version with fresh mint and key limes...yum!
DEBS: Yes, Rhys, get a horse!! We'll come to the races with you! And I may end up making mojitos, which I love. My garden is running wild in mint right now--I've been pulling it up by the armfuls--so need to come up with some use for it:-)
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, bourbon. If I had one sip of bourbon I would have a headache for a week. However! Somehow, happily, mojitos and Palymras (mint, vodka and lime shaken with ice) have no such aftereffects. Jonathan and I have a Derby ritual bet. He is allowed to pick either the favorite OR the rest of the field. He always picks the favorite and I get everyone else. I love it. We're about 50-50. Did anyone ever read the book called Copper Khan? It's about claiming races. SO sad.
DEBS: I grew up going racing with my parents. We went to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs every year, and to Shreveport, but never managed to go to Louisville to the Derby. My dad let me bet, too--all of $2, which I never outgrew, thank goodness--but it taught me to study the form and follow the horses and the jockeys. And I grew up reading Dick Francis. I'm still reading Dick Francis! That's what I'm listening to on Audible at the moment.
READERS, any suggestions on the juleps?