The margin separating spectator from participant is narrow. My teeth rattle to the rhythm of hooves striking the hard ground. Fine particles of dust settle on my damp skin. The tang of sweated horse flesh burns in my nostrils, tastes salty on my tongue. Thundering concussions ring in my ears and bold colors flash before my eyes like a lightning storm.
A mint julep will always have a place in my summer cocktail rotation, from the first sip on Kentucky Derby Day to the last sip on a late summer evening on the porch. I shared a very large pitcher of them with some friends recently, and I was struck by their simplicity and versatility. The eight of us have diverse tastes, but we all agreed that there’s no better cocktail for a summer party. I don’t know why the mentholated chill of mint and the fiery warmth of bourbon complement each other so well, but they certainly do. A bourbon drink that’s refreshing enough for sticky summer days is as good as it gets. And one that doesn’t require a ton of fiddly measuring and mixing is perfection.