Entertaining

Throw a Derby Party Like Eleven Madison Park

The restaurant shares its perfect julep recipe

The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race.

It is a rite of spring, a storied American tradition, a day to put on big crazy hats, assemble friends and sip bourbon 'til the moon comes up.

This Saturday marks the 140th Run for the Roses, and if you can't be there under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, you can do what they do gathered around TVs and spilling out onto rolling lawns across the Commonwealth: You can throw a Derby party.

To do it right, you need to do a few things. Leave the TV on, mostly unattended. Derby Day is about build-up: camera pans between buzzing paddocks and "Millionaire's Row," small men in rainbow blouses walking their horses to the gate, experts talking track condition minutiae, the blur of the race itself.

Don't over-think the food. Glaze a ham with jam, mustard, cloves and (obviously) bourbon. Maybe some cold fried chicken, pimiento cheese dip and a mountain of Martin's mini potato rolls, some mayo and be done with it. The point is to be generous with the food, but casual about it. Focus your hosting energies on dressing up and keeping your guests' julep cups filled.

And here is something you can do better than they do at the track: A properly made mint julep is not a sticky-sweet concoction.

"The julep is made to develop in the cup," says Leo Robitschek, drinks man at Eleven Madison Park, the tony Manhattan restaurant that throws the finest Derby soiree north of the Ohio River.

"The drink starts out strong but becomes more refreshing as the ice melts. The mint garnish is crucial to the cocktail--its aromas improve the drinking experience."

Get the EMP julep recipe here. Now start looking for a hat.

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