Ode to the Mint Julep


So, you think you’re a professional drinker? Partied with the best of them in college, always the last one to pass out? It doesn’t matter how many people you think you can drink under the table. NOBODY (no normal person, anyway) could possibly be ready for the drinking Olympics that is the Kentucky Derby.

People travel from all over the country and world to flock to Churchill Downs in their Sunday’s best. Women don the biggest sunhat they could find, linked on the arm of a tweed jacket-wearing old money fellow (if they’re lucky). That’s just the rich folk, though; ie: the ones who actually have seats. Someone like me, woefully broke and on the dime of a few friends, had tickets to the infield, arguably one of the raunchiest, drunkest, hillbilliest drink-a-thons known to professional sports (maybe besides NASCAR, but that’s in a league all its own).

We took a school bus. Don’t judge.

After being dropped off by our “private ride,” our party pre-gamed in the parking lot with cases of Natural Ice and other high class brews. Five hours of flippy cup later, we followed the mass exodus of drunks to Churchill Downs to watch the Derby. Never before have I seen such debauchery from misbehaving adults. Though it was all in good fun to buy beer by the can off the street, there was little to be said about those whose bladders were so full, they squatted behind cars and garbage cans to take a piss.

The infield of Churchill downs is essentially a backyard BBQ. Different tents are set up selling grill fare and drunks meander about musing over how much to bet on the big race. Lawn chairs and coolers make campsites and the young and old challenge each other to beer chugging contests.

Derby goers indulge early and often, I’m sure

As I perused the different tents feeling warm and fuzzy, one thing was certain: I HAD to have a Mint Julep. Ah, the images a Mint Julep conjures up: Sipping whiskey on a warm southern evening, bare feet up after a long day of hard labor. I was drunk from the romance of it all (or was it all that Nattie Ice?).  I imagined someone like Colonel Sanders would be passing out Mint Juleps nearby.

“Hey where did you get that?” I asked one unsuspecting, busty blond woman sucking one down.

“Over there sweetie! Just follow the loop of tents around and you’ll see the line! Nothin’ like a Mint Julep on race day!”

Score! The line was long and I was feeling hot and dizzy from all the cheap beer and the hot sun. When I finally ordered my Julep from some college girl working the tent (totally disappointed), I felt like I was livin’ the southern dream. I took one sip and I knew I was in a whole other league of hard-balling drinkers. They made these Juleps for professionals, not some beer chugging amateur like myself. I was taken aback at how strong this drink was. Traditionally made of bourbon, water, sugar and fresh mint sprigs, the julep isn’t much unlike a Mojito. It was something about that Early Times whiskey that washed over me in the wrong way.

I drank half of it and gave the rest away to a friend. I traveled half way across the country to have a Mint Julep and it was so strong I couldn’t even finish it. At least I made off with the souvenir glass!

Me and the Julep. My friend Dan’s face says it all

3 comments on “Ode to the Mint Julep”

  1. Try a real julep sometime. Churchill uses premixed ones they pour out of a plastic jug. A hermetically sealed mint flavored, corn syrup mixture will never taste anything like a delicately muddled mixture of fine sugar and mint.


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