I love the Kentucky Derby. Always have. Probably when I found out that Hunter S. Thompson was from Louisville did the Derby, him, and the world make total sense to me. This bit of information tore the veil off my small reality. The elegance and mystery of Kentucky pulls a guy from a cow town into a very real headspace of envy for folks that live and are from an old, classic, American place. I imagine that most professional golf caddies, door-to-door vacuum salesmen and crooked politicians come from Kentucky. People from Kentucky are deal makers. And it’s a place where one learns to navigate the world in such a way that you get from others more than they give you, yet the person being dealt with is a willing participant in the lopsided transaction because these people are so fucking polite and well mannered that they would never take advantage of anyone – Just ask the Colonel. What’s wrong with exposing a schmuck? They think they’re doing his ass a favor and they usually are. They’re proper. They’re well mannered. They like making a deal. They’re Americans. Good ones. Meaning, they’re really good at being American. They work hard at being good salesmen and wrapping up a deal before anyone knows what just happened. I mean, who can blame them? I’d love to make a quick buck and knock off early to catch a horserace, blaze up a fat cigar and drink some Kentucky Bourbon.
There’s also nowhere better to people watch than The Derby. We fucked this country out of excessive pageantry somewhere in the 1970’s. But Kentucky saves our souls the first weekend in May. The race is almost secondary. People dress up and show the fuck off – for fun. Very American. The women are involved in an obscenely flamboyant spectacle to see who can come up with an outfit that is primarily focused on one thing – a hat. There’s all kinds but the name of the game is elegance paired with absurdity. And more often than not, it works. It’s clearly part of the fun. They’re all beautiful. I dig it.
The guy’s typical garb on the other hand quickly dissolves in to a comedic style shit show. Take for example the Seersucker suit. C’mon. Terrible use of textiles. It’s called a Seersucker – for shirushakar, or shir o shakka. It’s Persian for “milk and sugar”. Lame. Sometimes outfitted with Braces – suspenders – synched up so tight that you can tell what religion someone is. A straw hat, bow tie and inevitably, a grass stained ass. Not a fan, but I’ve willingly participated. I’m American. I dug it.
The Derby highlights a Louisville culinary legend – The one-of-a-kind dish made famous by the Brown Hotel. The iconic Hot Brown was invented in the 1920’s by chef Fred Schmidt. Chef Schmidt created his take on an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce. It’s an easy dish to make for your Derby party.
Here’s a recipe for the iconic Hot Brown:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
6 slices Texas toast, lightly toasted
18 oz oven-roasted turkey breast slices
12 slices tomato
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
12 pieces of cooked bacon
Set the oven to broil.
In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until smooth. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until it simmers and thickens. Stir in Cheddar cheese until melted. Remove from heat.
Spray 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place toast slices in pan. Top each slice of toast with 3 oz turkey, 2 slices tomato, 1/3 cup cheese sauce and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.
Broil with tops about 6 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Top evenly with bacon; sprinkle lightly with paprika.
And I’m guessing you’re wondering when we get to the Mint Julep part of the story – Chill out Drunky McDrunk! We’re getting there…Jesus.
But first let’s talk about Bourbon – what exactly is Bourbon??
Bourbon is first and foremost a whiskey. It’s an American, barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. Some examples are Jim Beam, Bulleit, Makers Mark, Evan Williams, Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve. The law requires a 51% corn to be called Bourbon – and the rest of it’s makeup is the distillers discretion. We can get into the misnomer that “Bourbon” is exclusively a “Kentucky” thing another day – Because It’s not.
My favorite is Bulleit Rye. It’s 51% corn, 28% rye and a smidge of barley malt. I love the rye’s nuttiness and it’s got an amazingly clean finish. It has tones of maple, oak and nutmeg. And the finish is dry, satiny and long as hell with a toffee finish. Amazing, right??
Let’s make a Mint Julep:
***This works best when you use a metal Julep cup – or if you have a Moscow Mule copper cup from 1994 – use that – otherwise, a simple rocks glass will suffice***
¼ oz Raw sugar syrup – (boil equal parts sugar & water until sugar is dissolved – Let cool)
8 Mint leaves
2 oz Bourbon
In a rocks glass, lightly crush the mint and syrup
Add the bourbon and pack tightly with crushed ice
Stir until glass is frosted on the outside
Top with more crushed ice and garnish with mint sprig
Take note! This is a VERY STRONG drink!! They’re very easy to drink so when you’re standing in front of the mirror and you say, Mint Juelip like – Mmmmmint Zhzzzhhyoulip and you spittle when you say mint, it’s time for a nap.
The Derby seems like a wonderful day to enjoy a perfect Spring day doing a bunch of blow, drinking until you puke all over your seersucker – or your girl’s hat – (Mmmmm…minty) and cheering on God’s most pristine animal to the finish line.
I fucking love America
I love you too..
“Drink Scotch Whiskey, all night long – Steely Dan