053: The Kentucky Derby
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this weekend is a rare double header for us avid consumers of alcoholic delights. Sunday is Cinco de Mayo (every American’s 2nd favorite culturally errant holiday used as an excuse to drink excessively) and you’ll see more about that tomorrow. But, before that comes a truly All American Day Of Drinking: The Kentucky Derby. Now some of you may hear the phrase Kentucky Derby and think one of two things. The first being simply a flash of sweaty white dudes deep in the south with a bunch of ponies and ladies in weird hates. The second is probably, “Why is he talking about the Kentucky Derby if he has such a pathological hatred for horses?” I welcome your concerns and will address them in turn.
First off, yes. The Kentucky Derby is absolutely a Southern tradition. Seersucker, pale colors, big hats for the ladies, bow ties for the men, and most importantly bourbon are the defining elements of the event and for at least this day should be whole heartedly embraced. The key element, to me at least, is the bourbon. And in the setting of the Kentucky Derby bourbon takes on the form of the Mint Julep. There are 4 key elements here: crushed ice, fresh mint, strong bourbon, and a silver Derby Cup. The recipe calls for a little work when crushing the mint with your muddler (you do have a muddler right?) but overall is pretty simple. Need special direction? Check here. And don’t forget, bourbon is the official spirit of America.
Secondly, yes the horses are also a very important part of this race and yes I do have a completely legitimate fear of horses (have you seen how big those damn things are?). But, I enjoy the derby the same way I enjoy all horse races by enjoying the atmosphere, the drink, and the rush of watching your horse cross the finish line. And also there’s a giant fence in between us.
More importantly than all this, just let yourself fall into the revelry of the event. America doesn’t have a lot of things to celebrate that are wholly ours. Most traditions are adapted from, rooted in, or simply lifted from ones found in other countries and cultures. However, the Derby much like The 4th of July and Thanksgiving are entirely ours, and may be the most entirely American after The Fourth. So yeah, enjoy it! Get dressed up, wear a bow-tie, have a few too many juleps, place a few wagers, even throw a party if you feel up to it. Also, if you’re lucky enough to be attending the event itself, make sure you dress the part.