Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

After an April that saw just six days of sunshine (it sure seemed like four) and four feet of snow (it sure seemed like six), it is sweet to get a little hint of the spring to come.

And for me there is no better harbinger of the seasonal change than the run for the roses, the Kentucky Derby.

Saturday at 4:24 p.m. local time, the fastest two minutes in sports will commence when the bell rings and the gate opens on the 137th Kentucky Derby. A field of 20 horses is expected to charge down the dirt track in front of the iconic Twin Spires in pursuit of history. More than 100,000 spectators will cheer for their favorites. Memories will be made, money will be won and lost, and many of the attendees will spend Sunday salving their well-earned hangovers.

Along with the donning of extravagant chapeaus, and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” one of the more hallowed Derby traditions is the consumption of more than one Mint Julep. This sweet, toxic concoction has led more than one race-goer to ruin and, frankly, the syrupy sweet offerings at the Churchill Downs are about as inviting as a New Orleans Hurricane. Both are merely headaches in a glass.

But done right, the Julep can be a taste of spring. It is all about using the right ingredients and techniques.

Start by buying a bottle of Woodford Reserve, “The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” (which is not to be confused with The Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby, a julep made with Early Times, a Kentucky Whiskey). Woodford is an excellent small-batch Bourbon and it will make all the difference.

Take a Collins or highball glass, basically a tall tumbler, and add either a half-ounce of simple syrup (Homemade simple syrup is easy. Just place a half cup of sugar into a half cup of water, put on a stove and stir until the sugar melts, pour into a bottle and let cool) or two sugar cubes. Add a few sprigs of mint and muddle the sugar and the mint together in the bottom of the glass. Let the concoction sit for a minute or two to truly infuse the flavors and aromas.

Next add three ounces of the Woodford Reserve. Finish it off with crushed ice to the top of the glass and stir vigorously to chill the cocktail. Garnish with a sprig or two of mint.

This basically is a Mojito with Bourbon instead of Rum, and it will pack a punch. The drink is made for sipping, so don’t try to down one in the time it takes the horses to run a mile and a quarter.

I will watch the event at the Woody Creek Community Center, which is simultaneously holding a Derby party and an artist exhibition of Michael Cleverly’s work. Michael once penned a book about a Kentucky native named Hunter Thompson. If you wish to get a Thompson take on the goings on at the Derby go to There you’ll find a story on the 1970 Kentucky Derby that he attended with compatriot Ralph Steadman. “Dust Commander” won.

By the way, my pick for the Roses is “Twice the Appeal” with Jockey Calvin Borel aboard.

Good luck.

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