A true Kentucky Mint Julep, from The Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY
In social settings, regardless of what city I’m in, one question comes up repeatedly as soon as I reveal that I hail from the Bluegrass State.
“Do you drink mint juleps?”
It could be the third Thursday in November, and for some reason all anyone wants to talk about from that moment forward is the Kentucky Derby and its ubiquitous cocktail. Inevitably someone in the crowd either makes “the best mint julep” or knows someone else that does. Sidebar conversations tend to break out at that point over whether the julep should be “strong” or “sweet”, whether the mint is incorperated as an essential element or used more as garnish. It’s no wonder there is confusion among outsiders over how to make a proper mint julep. Kentuckians can’t agree on the correct preparation either. Books have been written on the subject. It would not surprise me to discover a thesis at the University of Kentucky has been written on “The Psychological and Social Aspects of the Proper Preparation of the Mint Julep Cocktail”, such is the level of diverse opinion on the subject.
The dining room at Greenwich Hall.
The advantage of having a group of friends who love to cook is that if one isn’t planning a dinner party anytime soon, you can bet another one will. For the past two months I’ve been distracted by my imminent (and now thankfully completed) move back to Lexington from Georgetown. As a result my kitchen has been less than hospitable since shortly after New Year’s. Fortunately, I have friends more than willing to take on the hosting duties. And after all, an occasional change of venue does us all good.
So it was on two separate occasions over the last six weeks that I found myself – not in the increasingly uncozy confines of the Shenandoah Supper Club homebase – but several miles away among the scenic backdrop of northern Fayette County. The house at Greenwich Hall Farm dates back to the 1880’s, and has all the charm one would expect of the small horse farms that still dot the countryside in and around Lexington. Amid the budding trees and brightly blooming flowers of an early spring, touched with the ever shortening shadows of a March sunset, a group of us gathered in the kitchen to welcome in the change of season and shake off the last vestiges of our fortunately mild winter.
The day started out cold and overcast with a brief mid morning drizzle, which contributed to holding the crowd down to around 20,000 people. But by the lunch break shortly after noon the weather for the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event had turned gloriously sunny. There was nearly a 30 degree temperature swing in just a matter of hours, however the crowd gathered around the Head of the Lake fences – where we picnicked – enjoyed the shelter and shade provided by the trees as the competition got back under way. Some of us had been there since early morning and had already covered great distances across the entire swath of the Kentucky Horse Park’s 1200 acres. We were already tired, hungry and ready for a break.
Our tailgating reputation got a little national notice this week in the March issue of Chronicle Connections, from the publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse Magazine. Be sure to check out the magazine and the article by clicking here. And don’t forget about the full coverage of our events on the Tailgating Steeplechase Style tab above. Plans for this years event are well underway. We hope to see you at the Kentucky Horse Park in May for another fantastic race (and no rain this year!)