Monday, May 23, 2011

Derby Day

Ahh, the summer social season begins.

Last year's Derby Day happened to coincide with the BGSO formal, and consequently, I was not able to celebrate appropriately.  I didn't even have the chance to watch Super Saver and Calvin Borel take the trophy after slogging through all that mud.  However, for this year's 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, I was fortunate to have a pretty decent turnout in the evening after Animal Kingdom stole the show.

After flying back to Boston that afternoon from a quick trip to see my parents and grandmother, I rushed to set up and have everything arranged in time for the party.  Thankfully, a friend picked me up from the airport, and bottles of bourbon had already been scheduled to be delivered.  After printing menus, picking up supplies at the grocery and arranging the bouquet of roses (red, of course), the stage was set.

Not wanting to cut corners, I began the evening by making each mint julep "à la minute", a mistake given the volume I later faced.  Its certainly quite the dilemma for next year: traditionalism or convenience.  Fortunately, the other drinks on the short menu, the Seelbach, the Jockey Club, Tom Collins and the Aqueduct, were more straightforward, relatively.

One quite pleasant surprise was how fashionably dressed everyone was: ladies in lovely hats and gentlemen sporting blazers.  While I was the only one in white linen yet again, this year's result at least lets me think that there's hope yet for these yanks.  Everyone even indulged me as we collectively serenaded the neighborhood with a rousing rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home".

Last, allow me a quick mention of a drink I was tinkering around with throughout the evening as inspired by the Derby.  The week prior, I had been playing around with rhubarb, and after making a lovely compote, a spiced rhubarb 'vermouth' struck my fancy as a good use for the remaining stalks.  Not a true vermouth perhaps, but a delicious concoction nonetheless, made by simmering rhubarb and spices in chardonnay, straining out the solids to further steep in gin and combining the syrup and infusion with a touch of orange liqueur.  Reminded of the classic strawberry rhubarb pie, as well as my previous success combining rhubarb and rose, I came up with something very similar to a drink Bob McCoy at ICOB had made.

Run for the Roses
1.5oz gin
0.75oz rhubarb 'vermouth'
0.5oz lemon juice
1 large strawberry muddled
Dash of rose water
Dash of orange bitters
Shake, strain, top with a bit of champagne and garnish with a slice of strawberry

A light and refreshing drink that went over well with the few ladies that tried it, and something that would certainly be altogether too easy to drink on the porch on a hot summer's day.