Looking forward to the Kentucky Derby

I remember about five years ago, one of the horses in the Kentucky Derby caught my attention because of its name. The horse was a 50-1 underdog, so I thought it would be fun to place a bet. Of course I never got around to it, and then I was pretty bummed to see the horse pull out a stunning upset.

A couple of year’s later, I got to attend the race and another long shot pulled off the upset, but this time I of course bet but picked the wrong horse.

Despite these losses, I still look forward to the Kentucky Derby every year. The urge to bet on Kentucky Derby winners is always there, but there’s so much more to the whole experience. I always loved watching it on TV, and I still love watching highlights of iconic horses like Secretariat and Seattle Slew winning the Derby. I remember as a kid when Affirmed beat Alydar, and I’ve been waiting for years for another Triple Crown winner. I was at the Belmont Stakes in 1989 when Sunday Silence was denied the Triple Crown by Easy Goer. Of course, I let my emotions get the better of me as I bet on history happening. Given the very long drought, it’s become an annual tradition as each Kentucky Derby winner is evaluated for the potential of winning the Triple Crown.

But after attending the event, I appreciate the Kentucky Derby mystique even more. You can see above how celebrities love the Derby as well, as lovely ladies like Marisa Miller pick out a sexy hat for the occasion as you can see in the video above. It’s amazing how many beautiful women come out in force over Derby weekend, so there are plenty of ways to enjoy this weekend. You’ll have to try a Mint Julep of course, but frankly I thought the drink was a bit overrated.

If you’re thinking of attending, make sure to book well in advance as this is an annual holiday in Kentucky. The place will be packed, but it’s a very appropriate addition to anyone’s Bucket List.


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Drink of the Week pre-5/5 special, part 2: the Mint Julep

the Mint Julep

We conclude our May 4, 2012 doubleheader with one of the most legendary of all cocktails and the ultimate Derby Day tradition. It’s also a drink, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve only tried for myself in the last couple of weeks.

According to such experts as New Orleans bartender Chris MacMillian, the Mint Julep was to the 19th century what the Martini was to the 20th. As MacMillians also reminds us, this super classic drink’s roots actually go back far further — juleps were eulogized in 1634 by “Paradise Lost” poet John Milton in his “Comus,” which some of us old English majors have actually read, even if we don’t remember a word of it. Today, the bourbon, sugar and mint concoction is primarily associated with Southern belles and gents in old movies seeking a cool libation on a powerful hot day, not to mention the ultra-famed horse race which will once again be run tomorrow afternoon.

As I heard from numerous sources, however, the actual juleps served in recent years at the home of the Kentucky Derby have been anything but satisfying. If word on the cocktail street is correct, Churchill Downs has fallen prey to the #1 enemy of good cocktails — a pre-mix! Tragic, perhaps but also almost understandable given the enormous crowds who arrive each year for Derby Day. In any case, if you want a really good Mint Julep, you’ll have to go a high quality bar with a decent mixologist in residence or, of course, you may make one yourself.

The Mint Julep

2.5-3 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 1 tablespoon sugar and a splash of water
About 5-8 fresh mint leaves
Lots of ice — preferably crushed.

Combine mint leaves, simple syrup or sugar (preferably superfine or powdered) and water in a rocks/old fashioned glass or, if you have one (I don’t) a traditional metal julep glass. Gently muddle the mixture, being careful not to overdo it as, we are warned, over-muddling mint can release some displeasing bitterness. Fill up your glass with ice, add the bourbon of your choice, and stir. Toast your favorite racehorse and sip slowly.

There’s no doubt about it, I’m a piker when it comes to the Mint Julep. I’ve made a few decent versions of it but I don’t own the special sack — called a Lewis bag — or the mallet needed for making the crushed ice fine enough to make the julep a sort of highly alcoholic snow cone and I also don’t own a blender. Even so, this drink works fine with lots of ordinary ice, particularly if you’re a bourbon lover, as I am. I made some very good versions of it using the remainder of my Angel’s Envy — I still had some left over from my exploration of the Chicago Sour — but I had  good luck as well using some very inexpensive yet sweeter and highly drinkable Evan Williams brew. I’m sure Maker’s Mark or really any brand of bourbon you like a lot would work delightfully.

The only problems I encountered were when I tried to dial back the sweetness. None other than James Bond in “Goldfinger” ordered his drink tart. When I tried it that way, the flavors simply didn’t come together. Just because you own a license to kill and save the world once a year doesn’t mean you know everything.

Of course, I don’t know everything either. Something tells me the drink, as prepared a bit differently from me by Chris MacMillian himself below, was really something.


Bet the House!

Bullz-Eye publisher Gerardo Orlando recently spoke with Richard Roeper about his new book – “Bet the House.” Roeper loves to gamble, so he came up with a great idea for a book after seeing Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me.” Roeper concocted his own 30-day challenge – he would bet at least $1,000 per day of his own money every day over a 30-day period. It’s a great read and we highly recommend it if you like to gamble. Roeper tries just about every form of wagering he could think of, from poker to a coin flip. He covers blackjack, slots, craps, sports betting, horse racing and much more, along with numerous trips to Las Vegas and some great stories about the Kentucky Derby.

His stories about some of the characters you run into when playing poker are hilarious.

BE: Some of the funniest parts of the book were the references to some of the other poker players you played with – the stereotypical, young poker player with the trucker hat, sunglasses, headphones. Talk a little bit about that because we’ve all run into those characters when we’ve played poker.

RR: Well yeah, it’s been about what…six, seven years now since the poker boom really hit, in the early 2000’s. So you know, you get a lot of these young players who, you know they were 14 or 15, watching the World Series of Poker and they have really been influenced by it, to me, in a comical way. Where they see these guys on TV with the sunglasses and the headphones and the Ed Hardy t-shirts and all that stuff. And they all think that they’re the next sensation and they’re so, you know, so serious and…unfortunately, it’s also given a lot of people license to really behave badly, in a boorish manner at the tables. And they don’t get it that if you’re Phil Hellmuth, you get away with it because you’ve got 11 bracelets and you’ve created a persona. If you’re some kid playing at a charity tournament in Chicago, you know, lighten up, get over yourself.

BE: Yeah, it’s hilarious when you run into those guys.

RR: I love messing with them.


The Kentucky Derby – Pretty Women in Big Hats

Here’s a photo of Kim Kardashian sporting the obligatory big hat at last year’s Kentucky Derby. When I was invited last year by Axe Shower Gel I was thrilled at the chance to check out Churchill Downs and the Derby. Immediately you think about the thrill of the race, betting on the horses and hoping to see the first leg of an eventual Triple Crown winner. You also know that there will be a ton of drinking and partying on the infield and in the stands.

I was also aware of the tradition of dressing up for the Derby (if you’re in the stands), and how most women would wear big hats and elegant dresses for the event. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for just how many pretty women would be there, and how sexy they would look in their big hats! They were everywhere, and they dresses like that all weekend. Everywhere you went on that weekend, you’d see hot babes in big hats. The whole Southern Belle theme was alive and well, and it gave us some great ideas for future photo shoots! We have to do a model search in Kentucky around the Derby!

You can see more pics of pretty women in these big hats from the Kentucky Derby here, here and here. Now, go study the horses and get ready for the race!


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