Monday, May 7, 2012

May the Fifth Be The Start of Mint Julep Season

Cinco de Mayo was an exciting day for me, but not for the reason you may think.

Some friends and I took advantage of a rare spring sunny day in Seattle to do some hiking, and on the drive there, I mentioned that we should go out for a drink afterwards.  The Gerald in Ballard was hosting a joint Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby party, I told them, and I was keen to check it out.

Knowing my relative disdain for all things tequila, Rob and Erin looked at me quizzically, completely oblivious to the real meaning of my statement.

Kentucky Derby Party.

One of the best days of the year for a bourbon lover like myself:  the start of Mint Julep season.

In fact, I was so excited I made up a song about it.  It went a little something like this:  Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, BOURBON.  So really my song was just the Batman song with the word Batman replaced with Bourbon, but if you ask Rick nicely, he may show you a video.

In case you are as confused about Mint Juleps and their connection to the Kentucky Derby as Rob and Erin, allow me to educate you.  We are, after all, an educational publication.

What is the Mint Julep?

The Mint Julep is rather simple in composition:
  • Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Crushed Ice
  • 2 Tablespoons Simple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Water
  • 2 Ounces of fine Kentucky Bourbon
Muddle the fresh mint in the bottom of a collins glass, fill the glass half-full with crushed ice, then add the simple syrup, water, and Bourbon.  Stir, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, and enjoy.

If you're making your own simple syrup, throw a few fresh mint leaves while it boils to infuse some extra minty goodness.

If you didn't plan ahead, water and sugar stirred really well can pinch-hit for simple syrup in a bind.

What about this horse race thing?

The Kentucky Derby has been called the most exciting two minutes in sports. Held the first Saturday in May in Louisville, Kentucky, the race is 1.25 miles and represents the first leg of the US Triple Crown.

The Derby has run every year since 1875 and the event is rife with tradition. Goofy hats being one of the more interesting, and luckily for us, Mint Juleps is another. I'm not much for horse racing, but Bourbon is a different story.

Booze and Horsies?

A match made in heaven. Just, not at the same time. The Mint Julep originated in Kentucky, and it's use of Bourbon makes it a perfect fit for the pomp and circumstance that is the Derby. In fact, the Julep has been promoted by Churchill Downs, the horse track, in association with the Derby since 1938 and over 120,000 Juleps are served each year during the 2-day Derby celebration. That's a lot of booze!

In the supreme display of pretentiousness, those sitting in Millionaires Row and the Derby can enjoy $1000 Juleps served in hand-engraved sterling silver cups with premium Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Grab my monocle and top hat, mate!

The Derby is commonly recognized as the start of Mint Julep season, and for those of us in the proletariat left to drink at a bar in Seattle, The Gerald serves a pretty mean cocktail.