Saturday offers so many options for sports fanatics

Flickr 14130332164_84228075d2_z By Bill Brine
Image courtesy of Bill Brine via Flickr

May is here, finally, and the sports calendar is starting to really get packed with plenty of options for the die-hard sports fan. But for you couch potatoes out there, today offers so many options you could spend the whole day lounging around with your beer and Fritos as you enjoy some of your favorite sports and sporting events. We have THE classic horse race, day 3 of the NFL draft, a potentially epic game 7 in the NBA playoffs and the rare occurrence of a boxing fight that everyone is talking about.

Horse racing may be dying a slow death, but the Kentucky Derby always gets everyone excited again, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If you ever get the opportunity to go the Churchill Downs, make sure you take advantage of it. You love the race and all the southern belles all deck out in their sundresses and pretty hats. But naturally you can enjoy this on your couch as well. You can even mix yourself a special drink like The Grandstand Julip featured this week by Bob Westal.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as the race doesn’t go off until 6:24 PM EST and most of us won’t be wasting our time with the hours of pre-race hype.

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Drink of the Week: The Quiet Man (TCM Fest Salute #3)

This is part three of our salute to the TCM Classic Film Fest (see parts one and two here and here). This week, a quandary was solved by my realization that the annual double-act of drinking related arguable holidays, Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo, are just about upon us, though I’m afraid the Mexican-American holiday is going to get short shrift este año.

I was struggling with another drink when it occurred to me suddenly that the film I’d planned to cover the final week of my salute, John Ford’s ultimate two-fisted romantic comedy, “The Quiet Man,” was also perfect for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. That’s because, like nearly all John Ford films, strong drink features prominently and there’s an exciting horse race scene, though it tends to overshadowed by the film’s legendary fistfight between leading man John Wayne and comic antagonist Victor McGlaglen.

Directed by America’s cinematic Shakespeare, John Ford, and written by his frequent undersung collaborator, the great Frank S. Nugent, “The Quiet Man” is a tale of a guilt-ridden Irish-American boxer (Wayne, of course) who escapes to the old sod after accidentally killing a man in the ring. He finds true love of a very feisty and sexy sort with a very feisty and sexy young clan matriarch (O’Hara, naturally). The twist is that, thanks to the selfishness of her thuggish older brother (McLaglen), he also finds that the only thing that will save his new marriage is practicing the not-at-all-so-sweet science of fisticuffs. It’s also a comedy, made back when you didn’t have to label a film a “dramedy” just because it has a few serious moments and a decent story.

Since the film is the ultimate celebration of the rather intimate connection between Ireland and the U.S., as well as between man and woman and fightin’ man and fightin’ man, a drink that unites the sweet whiskies of Ireland and the U.S.A. while packing a slow punch seems appropriate. It’s also appropriate to admit that absent or two very minor variations, it’s a total rip-off of the Derby Day classic, the Mint Julep. Still, I think it’s a maybe a nice change of pace.

The Quiet Man

1 1/2 ounces Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Bottled in Bond)
1 1/2 ounces Bushmills
1 teaspoon super fine sugar
5-8 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon (or maybe 1/2?) Campari or Aperol

Start with the sugar and mint leaves and, if you’re feeling quirky, the Campari or Aperol bittersweet liqueur. Muddle the mint leaves with the lightest of touches in the bottom of a rocks glass. Next, add your twin whiskeys, many smallish ice cubes and stir enough to really get things nice and icey.

As for our toast…let’s see, we’ve got John Wayne, horse racing, Maureen O’Hara, John Ford, the Marquis of Queensbury, Frank S. Nugent…Yeah, that’s it. Frank S. Nugent. It could be the first time a screenwriter who never became a director was toasted by the public, though it sure wouldn’t be the the first time a screenwriter got toasted.

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I have to admit I don’t feel like I quite finished the job on this drink as far as the Campari or Aperol are concerned, which I added for a bittersweet edge. I was tempted to write that you could leave them out entirely, but I wasn’t too happy with that version, either. Try one, or the other, or maybe experiment with another liqueur choice of your own. I like this drink, but it’s a work in progress.

I feel a bit more satisfied with my choice of brands, which this week I’m making a part of the official recipe. Old Fitzgerald Bourbon definitely has the right Irish ring to it, and it’s also a wonderful, underrated product that you can actually afford. Moreover, the fact that it’s 100 proof ensures that a Quiet Man really will pack just a bit more punch than a standard julep.

As for Bushmills, I’m sure Jamesons or another Irish whiskey would do and I won’t even get into the silly “Bushmills is protestant whiskey” argument. In any case, “The Quiet Man” depicts an ecumenical mid-century Ireland where Roman Catholics and a tiny minority of  Church of Ireland believers get along quite famously.

Really, though, the surest way to ensure that you have a really good time with this drink is to actually enjoy it while watching the brilliant 2012 4k restoration of “The Quiet Man,” which you can do via Amazon or, right here below. I think springing for the HD version makes sense here. You’ll see.

  

Summer party season around the corner

The summer party season is around the corner, so it’s time to start planning your road trips. There are so many great events out there to choose from, it’s really just a matter of picking one or two and then lining things up to enjoy it as much as possible, whether you’re going with friends and looking to hook up with women or taking your gal.

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Orb wins Kentucky Derby

The track was sloppy, so we can only imagine how messy things got as people partied in the infield. The Kentucky Derby is an event that everyone should experience at least once.

Orb emerged victorious coming from behind with a hard charge down the stretch. Now we can all root for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, as Orb seems to have what it takes to at least compete. This win wasn’t a fluke.

Orb Jockey Joel Rosario discusses the race in the video above. We’re hoping they can keep this up for the Preakness.

  

The Bulleit Rye Mint Julep for Derby weekend

Bulleit Rye Mint JulepWe love celebrating the Kentucky Derby, and one critical component has to be enjoying a Mint Julep which is the drink you’ll see everywhere during Derby weekend.

Here’s a great recipe:

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Bulleit Rye
2 oz. Stirrings Simple Syrup
Fresh mint leaves

Preparation: Muddle mint leaves, Stirrings Simple Syrup and crushed ice in rocks glass. Add Bulleit Rye and fill glass with ice. Pour into cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and serve in rocks glass with fresh mint garnish.

Of course, a big part of Derby weekend is betting on the race, and the folks at Bulleit teamed up with professional handicapper Tony Gold to give us six tips on picking a Derby winner:

1. Peaking performance: The most important rule of all is to find the horse that will peak in the Derby meaning, look for horses who improved with each race with either a strong first, second or third finish after a long layoff, with more room to improve. You can eliminate half the field simply by doing this.
2. Age factor: If the horse is two years old and hasn’t raced, the chances of it winning are slim. These are not fully mature horses and getting to a mile and a quarter requires much conditioning.
3. Time comparison: Log resulting times from each horse’s last prep race with the rest of the board.
4. Prep race outcomes: Look at what prep races historically produce the most winners.
5. Jockey experience: Consider the jockey’s skill set from previous races. The derby is a large field and a good experienced jockey can position a horse well early and avoid trouble, which can make or a break a horse’s chances.
6. Tactical speed: A Derby winner will jump early and can be found somewhere from mid-field to the second or third place by halfway around the course.

Of course, your girlfriend might do better just picking based on a cool name, but that’s what makes this race so much fun. Enjoy!

  

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