Friday, May 06, 2005
MINT JULEP FOR THE KENTUCKY DERBY
The Kentucky Derby, of course, is the first Saturday in May. That's tomorrow!
This year, according to an article in yesterday's NYT (Thursday, 5/5/5), the favorite is George Steinbrenner's horse, Bellamy Road. And he's being trained by Nick Zito who is the favored trainer to win (because he's got 5 (that's 5!) horses competing).
I've been watching the KD on TV every year for a long time. And I learned how to make a killer mint julep. I'd love to visit Churchill Downs for the race some day. But, in fact, I've never, ever been to a live horse race, not even at Belmont, which is not too far away from me. I must do that one of these days.
I've always tried to have a mint julep (MJ) on KD day. That's how I discovered Ruth Reichl. In the early 90's she was a food critic in LA. On a business trip I knew I would be somewhere south of LA on derby day. I needed my MJ. I noticed an article she had written in the LA Times Magazine about new fine restaurants in California, and I found one that was near where I'd be. When I went there on KD day, they didn't know how to make a mint julep, but they were nice enough to try to follow my instructions, and when the first one didn't quite work, tried again and came up with something memorable, together with a really good meal. I've followed R Reichl ever since.
Here's how you make a wicked MJ. (Note: Don't drive or ride a horse or operate heavy machinery after this; don't ingest with anything that will exceed your tolerance for total number of chemicals in the body!) Boil a little bit of water and then put it in a cup with some washed and dried, torn up, fresh, nice looking mint leaves, to create a strong mint tea. (Note: Mint leaves are not always that easy to get, and when you get a bunch, many leaves are often wilted, or blackened. It's important to select the best leaves even if that is only a fraction of the bunch of mint in the package.)
Add quite a bit of sugar. (Optionally some sugar could be replaced with a half jigger of a sweet liqueur like Cointreau, Drambuie, or Grand Marnier.) Add about a half jigger of a good Kentucky Bourbon. (After trying quite I few, I found that my favorite is Maker's Mark.) Add this mixture with some additional torn up, fresh, nice looking mint leaves to ice in a crusher.
Crush the mixture of sweetened mint tea, and bourbon to make a tall glass worth of flavored crushed ice. Take a tall, chilled glass, add a long straw, fill the glass with the crushed ice, and then pour in a jigger more bourbon to fill up the cracks. Turn on the pre-race show, and enjoy it!
It's matter of taste what you eat with the drink, if anything. My own preference is Greek or similar appetizers. In the New York area, Molyvos probably has the best selection of appetizers I know of. Near Carnegie Hall, they're the best replacement for the late, lamented Russian Tea Room after a concert, and they do provide food to go if that's how you want to enjoy the Derby.
The KD is on NBC at around 5 with post time about an hour later. Oddly there was almost no mention of the Derby on the NBC web site. WNBC NY had a little bit.
I enjoy the race, by the way, but to make the race better (since it only lasts two minutes, after all), enhancing it with slow motion replays and particular horses isolated in the picture (the more the better) is a way of greatly extending the experience. I hope the TV broadcast does a lot of that.