Saturday is one of my two favourite days in sports. The most exciting two minutes in sports, in fact. It’s time for The Kentucky Derby. A great excuse for a party if ever there was one.
Although we have dinner guests that night, a new neighbor — and Kentucky native — has invited us to witness the event over lashings of bourbon on historic Monument Avenue. Perfect. And what a kind invitation.
For the rest of you who won’t be attending the same party and who will be hosting your own, begin your event planning now.
In preparation, please shop today to gather your mint (I was forced once, in college, to use a Scope rinse in the glasses… nobody knew… mea culpa, mea culpa.) Specify a dress code of coat and tie. (And gentlewomen, please wear your best hat.) Make sure that the ice is crushed and the silver julep cups polished. An odd hat makes a great vessel from which to pick a horse’s name. Small wagers (USD$1) among friends, tossed into the hat, are typical here in the Old Dominion.
And finally, two key pieces of the puzzle.
Each year Churchill Downs mixes 10,000 bottles of Early Times Ready to Serve Mint Julep Cocktails with 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of crushed ice to make the required 120,000 mint juleps for two days of festivities. You can find the official recipe here.
The little known fact (according to Salvatore Calabrese) of the matter is: the julep is Virginian by birth.
Carry me back, Mr. John Davis, to 1803, and your observations which are the first recorded mention of the julep.
“A dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians in the morning.”
The Mint Julep (make simple syrup or)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 Tablespoon water
4-5 mint leaves
1 jigger of bourbon (or about a shot and a half)
In the bottom of your sterling silver julep cup (or other glass) muddle the sugar, water and mint. Which means crush it up really well so it forms a kind of paste.
Add the bourbon.
Fill with crushed ice. And the ice must be crushed (if you have no other recourse, fill a kitchen towel with ice cubes and have at it with a meat tenderizer or small hammer.)
Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Now, as to what the gentleman might wear. You can’t go wrong with a blue blazer. This isn’t the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, after all. Nor are we in a box seat.
Royal Enclosure Dress Code
Ladies are required to dress in a manner appropriate to a formal occasion. This means that a hat must be worn, strapless dresses are not permitted, midriffs must be covered, and trouser suits must be of full length and of matching colour and material. Gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress, including a waistcoat, with a top hat which must be worn at all times when you are in the Royal Enclosure other than within your private box or facility”. Note that box balconies, restaurant terraces and gardens will be deemed to be ‘within’ the facility.
Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country or Service dress. Those not complying with the dress code will be asked to leave the Royal Enclosure and will be relieved of their Royal Enclosure badge.”
But the addition to your blazer and odd trousers of a yellow bow tie, (and weather permitting) linen trousers, and saddle shoes really stands out from the crowd. If your tie has the colours of your horse, so much the better.
If you want to forgo the blazer, consider the seersucker sportcoat (again, weather permitting.) This is a great look when combined with your grey flannel trousers and brown shoes or loafers. Your tie may be a whimsical riding print or other Hermès or Ferragamo (‘ish) flight of fancy. Particularly if the design relates to your favourite in the race.
If you’ve spectator shoes, this is the time to deploy them.
My Old Kentucky Home
By Stephen Foster
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By’n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.
And in the event you think that I’m taking m’self too serusly