The Kentucky Derby and its Traditions

The Kentucky Derby has a long and rich history. In 1882, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark (explorer) of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England and visited the Derby, a famous race that had been running annually since 1780. From there, Clark moved to Paris, France, where in 1863, a racing enthusiast group formed what is called the Jockey Club de Paris. The Club had started their own race called the Grand Prix de Paris, which is still run annually at Longchamp.
The Kentucky Derby is the oldest running horse race in the United States, but it is also steeped in tradition. One such tradition is the garland of roses this was established as part of the Derby celebration when each woman attending the race was presented with a rose. The rose became so popular that was declared the race’s official flower. Today, a blanket, or garland of roses is draped over the winning horse.  Another popular tradition is the Mint Julep.  The Mint Julep has been the beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century.
recipe01bMint Julep Recipe 
4 cups bourbon
2 bunches fresh spearmint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar
Powdered sugar
To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.
To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.
Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture into an empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.
To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

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