Three things you absolutely must know for the Kentucky Derby

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Holy smokes, it’s Derby Day. That means that between last night (Derby Eve), today (Derby Day) and tomorrow (Sunday Funday), our modest hopes of having a blackout-free weekend are pretty much shot.

But Derby Day is no St. Patrick’s Day, all crushing whiskey and throwing hooks. It’s a sophisticated celebration, and there are a few things that every patriotic man of substance and good taste must know.

Fortunately for America, The Daily Caller is here to speak that truth.

Truth #1) How to make a bomb-ass mint julep

A bomb-ass mint julep is absolutely key to a proper observance of Kentucky’s derby. A blend of American whiskey, sugar and mint, it’s a sort of sweet tea for boozehounds. And while we dropped a pretty fly recipe for a classic bourbon julep last year, it isn’t 2012 anymore, so we thought we’d spice things up a bit. (RELATED: How to outrun the Mayan apocalypse on a horse while wasted)

The good people at Bulleit sent us a recipe for something we hadn’t tasted before — a rye whiskey mint julep. The concept of blending the South’s sweetest manly cocktail with the South’s spiciest style of whiskey intrigued the hell out of us (and we could not believe that we hadn’t thought of it ourselves). But we did tweak the recipe a bit, because while we can get away with using cooking bourbon in a classic julep, if we drop $25 on a bottle of rye, we want to enjoy the distinctive, spicy notes it brings to the classic derby cocktail.

TheDC started in the morning.

So here’s what folks will need to make TheDC’s Bulleit Rye Mint Julep:

Julep’s aren’t too complicated, but they take a bit of prep work. First, to make simple syrup, combine water and sugar at a 1:1 ratio and bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely disolved into the water. It’s ideal to cool this concoction before using, but when we’re thirsty, we rarely have the patience.

Next, crushing ice. Crushing ice sucks. A lot. But it really needs to be done, not only for tradition’s sake (and Derby Day is a bender of the most traditional sort), but for the sake of the taste (sipping the julep through the ice while it melts into our creation is pretty much the best thing in the world). Some fancy folks have ice crushers, and a lot of bars do too. Heck, they even sell hand-cranked ice crushers. But if all else fail (as is the case in the office this morning), we just throw that ice in a double trash bag and slam it with a hammer. It makes a lot of noise, takes a little sweat, and causes a total mess but it gets the job done.

Now, to make the julep, drop the mint leaves and the simple syrup into the julep cup, then muddle that together for a few seconds. Next, fill the cup to the brim with crushed ice, followed by the rye whiskey. Once we’ve added the ingredients, we like to box it back and forth to let the cocktail mix with the ice, but we’re pretty sure a southern gentleman would tell us never to do that. Oh well.

Finally, garnish with a sprig of mint and a dash of confectioners sugar.

Crush, and repeat.

Truth #2) How to pop that style

Here at TheDC, we think that it’s important to not look like an asshole. But on Derby Day, that rule goes straight out the window. Don’t run from it; embrace it.

Now, some smart folks have actually put together a helpful guide for the serious man, but here at TheDC, we’ve had a couple of drinks before noon, and we’re going out in style. Here are our helpful hints, starting from the top:

  • The hat: The long tradition of the derby harks back to a time when a man wore a hat and was bare without one. That time being the first half of the 20th century, that’s where a man’s derby hat should be chosen from. That means gray fedoras, straw homburgs, panamas and, for the classic Great Gatsby look, straw boaters — the best hat for the seersucker suit. Of course, some folks just go nuts.
  • The shirt: Contrary to some idiot opinions, the shirt is not the place to go all out on Derby Day; it’s the rock that holds the rest of the ridiculousness together. We suggest going with plain white or a muted pastel. Also, choose cotton or some other very light material and wear an undershirt, because it gets hot at the derby, and the pimpest outfit in the world is quickly ruined by sweat and nastiness.
  • The jacket: The derby is a sporting event, so wear a sports jacket. While navy with gold buttons is classic, we think the jacket can, and should be, loud. Some of our favorite things are stripes, checkers, faded pink and, of course, seersucker. But as with the shirts, remember that it is hot, and choose the fabric accordingly.
  • The tie: Again, pastels. And that pinnacle of southern prep — the bow tie. Extra points for anyone who flies a pink tie with horses on it.
  • The slacks: We can have a little fun here. While we’re generally entirely opposed to loud pants and pastels, if anyone has those, today is the day to rock them. From bright red to Nantucket red; and from plaid to duck-covered, Derby Day is the day to go out in style. For some reason people in the South don’t like to match their pants and their jackets, so unless the plan is to go for the full monty (see below), don’t match the slacks to the jacket. And a helpful hint: Don’t get arrested. It will be a long weekend, and pastels don’t go down too well in the holding tank. Also, unlike with a jacket or tie, folks can’t hide it by taking this item off — in the holding tank, it’s best to keep the pants on.
  • The shoes: Shoes should be formal and match the outfit; and they should be well-shined. Our favorite pair is the contrast of white and brown, colors that go with most outfits.
  • The full monty: Of course, some people like to go all out and wear a suit. The classic suit of the Kentucky Derby is the seersucker, but pretty much anything popular in the 1920s is awesome, and we would be shirking our duty if we didn’t point folks to the bossest collection of derby-appropriate 1920s suiting we’ve ever seen: the Great Gatsby Brooks Brothers Collection.

Whichever route folks choose to go, the two most important things to remember are 1) It is going to be hot, and 2) drop it like it’s hot. The best outfit in the world will look like dirt if it isn’t rocked with utter confidence.

Truth #3) How to bet on a horse

But the Kentucky Derby isn’t all sweet whiskey and high fashion: It’s also a horse race. As such, there will be researching, schmoozing, betting and, for two minutes, a lot of yelling and carrying on.

And while we at TheDC know a lot of awesome things — particularly how to look good while drinking — we don’t really know much about betting on horses. We’ve really only ever placed three bets at all, and once our horse of choice died. But the point of this story is that we’re going to hand this bit of advice off to a professional sports-betting consultant, Tony Gold. So here it is, in his own words:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Time comparison: Log resulting times from each horse’s last prep race with the rest of the board.
  • Prep race outcomes: Look at what prep races historically produce the most winners.
  • 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.
  • 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.

So there we have it. If anyone wasn’t ready for the Kentucky Derby when they woke up, they sure as hell are now. As we at TheDC like to say, “If you don’t know, now you know, reader.” Enjoy.

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