It’s the first weekend in May and that means it’s time for the Kentucky Derby. You’ve probably already proven your horse racing-bona fides with our Kentucky Derby quiz, but are you really ready for the Run for the Roses? Follow along as we walk you through the necessities of properly enjoying yourself before taking in the action from the Derby (broadcasting live on SiriusXM Rush, Ch. 93).

The fashion

The Derby represents the one time of year where anyone, but typically women, can (and should) wear a ridiculous, garrulous and gigantic hat in public. While the tradition of sporting a hat the size of an aircraft carrier is now about making a statement–what that statement actually is remains open to your own interpretation, but probably “Look at me. I’m wearing a big hat.” However, originally, wearing a big hat was more about proper formal attire, because it was the 19th century and people were way more impressed by big hats back then before Neko Atsume, your yard expansion therein, and your smart phone. Now, whether you’re at Churchill Downs for the race, or even if you’re just at a Derby party, you are strongly encouraged to get in on the hat fun. Looking for some ideas? The Derby’s website has some inspirational suggestions and tips.

The gambling

Look, there probably are tens of people who watch the Kentucky Derby for the sheer spectacle. For the rest of us there are the three B’s: big hats, booze and betting. We just covered the big hats and we will get to booze (bourbon) in a minute, but now let’s talk gambling.

Tips:

  • The favorite wins about 33% of the time. From a historical perspective, you’re not gonna make that much money betting on a favorite and 1 out of 3 aren’t *that* great of odds vs the field, but y’know, safest way to actually not throw your money away.
  • What do the odds mean? Let’s say you’re betting $2 on a horse who is 12-1 (Brody’s Cause for instance is 12-1 right now), that means if Brody’s Cause wins you’ll be taking home $26. Odds = wager ($2) x first number in odds (12) / second number (1) + 2.

Those are the bare basics of gambling, but again, it’s luck, a crapshoot, a blindfolded dart throw for 99% of us. Wager a small amount, pick a horse name you like and go for it.

The mint julep

No Kentucky Derby would be complete (over 120,000 mint juleps are served at Churchill Downs each year) without a libatious concoction (or three) and thankfully, there’s a longstanding tradition at the Derby (or on your couch) of tippling the refreshing elixir known as the mint julep. Is there a wrong way to make a mint julep? Yes, by not using America’s national beverage (bourbon, no seriously) you’re not only being unpatriotic, you’re also doing yourself a serious disservice. Mint juleps are outstanding and potent. Here’s a simple recipe that is somewhat idiot-proof (I am the idiot who proved it to be hard to screw up).

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon, a 750 bottle should do ya, but go nuts Billy Martin. We have a preference for Buffalo Trace, but Jim Beam is fine. Like rye? Old Overholt will work too. George Dickel man? Go for it.
  • Mint, lots and lots of fresh mint. More than seems necessary
  • Simple syrup or just powdered sugar if you have a muddler
  • Water
  • Ice cubes, like the mint, you’ll want more than you think is prudent

Take four or five mint leaves and add them to a cocktail mixer, add two teaspoons of water and one teaspoon of powdered sugar (note: plain old white sugar is fine). Next, muddle the mint, water and sugar until you have a fragrant slurry of mint and dissolved sugar. Grab your jigger, dole out two one-ounce pours of bourbon and add to the mixer. Stir. Pour over ice in a highball, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. You’re all set.

Enjoy the Kentucky Derby, folks!

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