Dining Out Denver & Boulder | Jeffrey Steen

The man behind the Derby

It all started in 1875 with Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. While the itinerant’s grandfather was celebrated for the epic journey he undertook with companion Meriwhether Lewis, Clark Jr.’s notoriety was driven not by odyssey but by horsepower. Literally.

Impressed by European horse races during visits to England and France, Clark Jr. decided to raise money for Louisville, Kentucky’s first “quality” race track just outside the city. That track would become known as Churchill Downs (so named for the land donors who provided the track’s final plot). On May 17, 1875, Churchill Downs saw its first Kentucky Derby—comprised of 15 stalwart jockeys, 10,000 cheering fans, and probably a fair amount of mud.

These days, the Kentucky Derby is almost as American as apple pie—or, as it has otherwise come to be known, “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Whether you’re for or against such assertions, it’s undoubtedly an exciting race, boasting an impressive $2 million purse.

Enough about racing. What do I drink?

In 1938, the Mint Julep was introduced as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Served in souvenir glasses, this simple blend of bourbon, mint, and simple syrup has become a staple of not only Derby celebrations, but Kentucky living. So if you’re aiming to watch (or just toast) the race May 6, learn how to make the drink like a master.

Lesson one: The Classic Julep. Docked at the corner of Larimer and 15th in lower downtown, Ocean Prime {1465 Larimer Street; 303.825.3663} is an elegant place to settle for your horse’s victory lap. And do take advantage of the occasion with a quintessential Mint Julep, OP style, and a tweed blazer with elbow patches. Or simply make the magic at home in sweat pants:

In a shaker, combine 2 ounces Old Forester bourbon, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/4 ounce Disaronno, and 4-5 dashes angostura bitters. Add 8 fresh mint leaves, top with ice, and shake well to combine flavors. Strain over crushed ice into a cocktail glass and garnish with a mint sprig.

Lesson two: The Julep Twist. If you would rather cozy in for a two-minute viewing party chez toi, then try another kind of Julep, just for horse kicks:

In a shaker, combine 2 ounces Nooku Bourbon Cream, 1/2 ounce white crème de menthe, and 5 dashes angostura bitters. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain over crushed ice into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Sit back, sip, and savor all 120 seconds of glory. We’re cheering for Irish War Cry. You?

Original article at diningout.com

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