Spring is a great season for many reasons, but as a woman raised in Kentucky, I mostly focus on basketball, redbuds, and horse racing. Basketball ended in some sadness for those of us wearing the right shade of blue and the redbud blooms have been replaced with heart-shaped leaves, but the first Saturday in May remains to beckon our attention this weekend.
Julia has gotten herself to Kentucky several times for the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports and it is always an adventure. During her most recent visit, her Jersey side came out a bit more than usual. (Keep in mind we were part of a 10 girl Southern-style lineup. I cropped it for maximum Jersey.) This whole post is probably just an excuse for me to put this picture on the blog. It’s one of my all time faves.
This will be my ninth Kentucky Derby and we’ve gathered together a lot of traditions over those years, but no tradition is more revered than the cocktail we all drink pre-race: Bourbon Slush. Except for that fateful first Derby, during which I unknowingly had gallstones and would be in operating room two days later, we have made this frozen delight every year to the joy of all who join our tailgate.
We all have a mint julep once we make it into Churchill Downs (if only for the free Derby glass it comes in), but bourbon slush is the cocktail we prefer. It is a perfectly acceptable alternative to serve at any Derby-themed party and most of your guests will thank you for the substitution.
I could go on for days about the experience that is the Kentucky Derby, but I’ll cut to the chase. If you want to read more, I direct your attention to Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Although written in the 1970s, it’s still pretty spot on.
Also, let this post serve as an open invitation to anyone who wants to come to the Derby. I guarantee a good time.
Bourbon Slush, the Official Kentucky Derby Recipe of Yours Truly
The recipe we usually use for Derby Day is meant to serve many. If you have any left over, stick it back in the freezer for another day. If you don’t have enough, sorry, Charlie. This stuff takes several hours to get slushy.
- ~2 c. bourbon: we tend to use something middle of the road like Jim Beam or Benchmark
- 2 c. strong black tea: 5 tea bags, set to steep for about five minutes
- 6 oz. orange juice concentrate
- 12 oz. lemonade concentrate
- 5 c. water
- Club soda or sprite to top
- Mint garnish (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a freezer-safe, sealable container. I usually use a large tupperware-type container that allows for easy scooping. Place the container in the freezer and chill for at least eight hours.
To serve: fill the cup (Solo, if you’re at the track; glass if you’re not) 3/4 of the way full with slush. Top with club soda or Sprite. Garnish with a sprig of mint if you’re feeling fancy. Pick your horse and cheer him on to a last place finish, if you’re anything like me.
NB: Most recipes out there on yon internet call for added sugar. We have never added any sugar and suggest you don’t either. Also, keep this stuff in the freezer in between dishing out if possible. It melts mighty quickly.
Now, if you don’t want to make a batch of slush for 8+ people, I suggest you use this recipe. I just made it for the first time, trying to adapt the recipe above to a smaller size without the need for frozen concentrate juices. It makes enough for 3-4 good size servings.
- 1 c. bourbon: this makes a relatively strong batch, FYI
- 1 c. strong black tea: I steeped two teabags
- 1 c. orange juice
- 1/2 c. lemon juice
- 1/2 c. water
- 3 tbsp. sugar (mix it into the hot tea for quickest dissolution)
Follow the same procedure as above. Taste for sweetness before putting in the freezer. It will not taste as sweet once cold. This recipe is much less sweet that the one above, but you can always add more sugar or use Sprite to top. I like it both ways.
- Follow the directions for either recipe above.
- Once slush consistency, prepare your own single cup serving with club soda or Sprite.
- Realize you have to go somewhere before you are able to get three bites down. Place your cup in the freezer.
- Return from your outing and scrape the ice crystals (aka granita) with a fork or spoon to serve/eat out of the cup.
- Rejoice at its greatness.