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Make A Mint Julep And Capture The Fake Majesty Of The Horse Track

Illustration for article titled Make A Mint Julep And Capture The Fake Majesty Of The Horse Track

Remember how Regressing was the best part of Deadspin until they pulled this unconscionable bullshit and we had to fire-murder poor Reuben and Kyle, who were probably decent dudes, but at a certain point, enough's enough? Well, we here at the Concourse are aiming to atone for some of our dead brothers' sins by encouraging you to visit the one place that will make you feel as spry as their "Which Athletes Are Younger Than You? Ha Ha, Like Two Kickers and Jeter" chart made you feel old.


Get your ancient self to the nearest horse track and you will suddenly feel younger, better dressed, and more current on your child-support payments than you ever thought possible. It cracks me up that horse-racing culture still maintains a reputation for class and sophistication. Regardless of what the Kentucky Derby ladies' hats look like on TV, or how splendid and civilized Saratoga is reputed to be, the vast majority of American horse-raceries are broken-down pits of nylon pants, suspended licenses, and all-day eye-boogers.

Which is great. I love going to the track. I've got a pronounced dirtbag streak myself, and I like to check up on some of the tiny businessmen who've been displaced by regulated ticket-scalping markets and decriminalized marijuana. And I'm not saying the track's a uniformly depressing place for regular people to visit, either. My wife's not very scummy, and she likes going to Suffolk Downs once a year to look at the horses and rub elbows with (eh, rub her elbow on the tops of the heads of) the admirably dapper contingent of 130-year-old Italian guys who still show up every day, live racing or no. The beer's reasonably priced, to the extent that it's ever reasonable to charge a person folding money for a waxed-paper cup of Bud Light, and gambling is great.

The worst thing about gambling on horses, of course, is that it's mathematically impossible to win, but that's offset by the good news that it's a pretty slow bleed. You can get a couple bucks' worth of action on a dozen races and kill an afternoon without seriously affecting your lunch budget. If it's been a while between track trips, I highly recommend you refamiliarize yourself with this mostly harmless form of low-level debauchery.

But if you're not lucky enough to live near one our dwindling number of functioning horse tracks, you can still get into the spirit of Saturday's Kentucky Derby by drinking a mint julep, one of the relatively few old-time special-occasion drinks that are worth the effort for the home bartender with middling ambition and a working knowledge of the gas station's "fresh herbs" section.

The pain-in-the-ass parts of making a mint julep are crushing ice and muddling mint. You also need simple syrup, which you don't have, but for Christ's sake, just simmer a cup of sugar into a cup of water already. Or you could buy some, but that's a sucker's move, because nothing is cheaper and easier to prepare than simple syrup.

You will also need bourbon. You don't have to go high-end, but you might want to spring for something 90-proof or above, since the crushed ice will dilute your drink along the way. I'll probably use Old Crow Reserve this year, which is only 86-proof, but which is also currently in my liquor cabinet. Old Grand-Dad Bonded is nice for this sort of thing, since it's got a spicy rye kick to even out the sugar from the simple syrup you just made. But whatever, just use bourbon. Or any American whiskey, or, come to think of it, Canadian whiskey works fine, too, and why wouldn't Jameson? Don't use Scotch, though. That would be weird.


So you're going to obtain some crushed ice, a good cup's worth per drink. This could be a bit of a hassle, because if your blender cost under one million dollars, the "Ice Crush" setting is a lie. So put some regular ice cubes in a plastic bag, cover the bag with a dish towel, and get a-hammerin'. It's cathartic, and impressive. Look at you, making simple syrup and crushing ice!

OK, now we're rolling. Put four or five mint leaves and a shot of simple syrup in a cup that can withstand a bit of action. Now muddle the mint, which does not mean "beat the ever-loving shit out of the mint till it's all busted and black, and has spit chlorophyll and god knows whatever other bitter oils into your glass." It means give it a couple of good smacks with the muddling stick you don't own, or just the back of a spoon (you've got a spoon, right? Wendy's forgets to give you one with the chili at least half the time, so you gotta have your own spoon for emergencies). Move it around the bottom of the glass and run it up the sides; work it a bit for sure—otherwise, it won't do anything—but you don't have to be very aggressive to release the mint flavor.


Now add a half-cup of crushed ice, then two shots of bourbon, then top it off with another half-cup of ice. Want to throw a sprig of mint on there for show? Hey, do it. You deserve a little flair, because you just goldarned made a mint julep in the discomfort of your own kitchen.

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.


Art by Sam Woolley.

The Concourse is Deadspin's home for culture/food/whatever coverage. Follow us on Twitter:@DSconcourse.