It’s Kentucky Derby time, which means it’s time for mint juleps and a very specific type of pie. We’re not going to give the pie a name just yet, for reasons that will be explained below, but it traditionally is made out of nuts and chocolate chips and whiskey and often sees sales spike around the first Saturday in May.
First off, the mint julep. Our go-to recipe is adapted from “The 12 Bottle Bar,” a fun, informative cocktail-recipe book by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson.
— Handful of mint leaves
— 1 oz. simple syrup (2 tablespoons)
— 2 oz. bourbon or rye, your choice (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons)
— Put the mint in a cup, preferably one made out of silver or some other metal that’ll keep things nice and cold, and muddle it by pressing it gently against the sides and bottom of the cup for a few seconds (use that muddler your got as a wedding present or the handle of a wooden spoon). DO NOT MASH THE MINT. You just need to release the mint’s oils, which does not require a strenuous effort. Over-muddling will result in an overly bitter drink.
— Add the simple syrup.
— Fill the cup with crushed ice and add the bourbon. Stir gently for 30 seconds or so, until frost forms on the side of the drink.
— Add more ice if needed and garnish with another sprig of mint.
There are variations on the recipe. The Willard Hotel’s much-cited recipe — which is based on the one employed by famed Kentucky politician Henry Clay way back when — uses sparkling water, for instance. Play around with it until you find your preferred cocktail.
HERE IS A RECIPE FOR PIE TO BE CONSUMED AS CELEBRATION OF A HORSE RACE
There is only one Derby Pie, and it is made by a Louisville company called Kern’s Kitchen that has trademarked the name and doesn’t mess around when protecting that trademark. Among the publications to be served with cease-and-desist orders after daring to use the name is your very own Washington Post, at least according to this 2001 article.
“We’ve gone after churches,” Don Cox, longtime lawyer for Kern’s Kitchen Inc., told The Post back then. “One of our first lawsuits involved one of these cookbooks issued by — I don’t know, one of these charitable organizations. We’ve had pretty good luck with cookbooks.”
So what follows is most certainly not Derby Pie, but instead is a recipe provided by Betty Crawford, a former Louisville resident and the aunt of Post assistant sports editor Tracee Hamilton.
PIE. JUST PIE. FOR A HORSE RACE.
— 1 cup sugar
— 1/2 cup flour
— 1 stick margarine, melted
— 2 eggs, slightly beaten
— 1 teaspoon vanilla
— 1 cup chopped nuts
— 1 cup chocolate chips
— 3 tablespoons whiskey
— 1 unbaked pie shell (ideally the deep-dish refrigerated variety)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour and sugar. Add the eggs and margarine and stir well. Add the remaining ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake for one hour.