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Betting on bourbon for Kentucky Derby party

Enjoy a refreshing mint julep while you celebrate the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Lori Thomas, from Nashville, Tenn., drinks a "Lilly" before the running of the 139th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Friday, May 3, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. (David Goldman/AP)
Lori Thomas, from Nashville, Tenn., drinks a "Lilly" before the running of the 139th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Friday, May 3, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. (David Goldman/AP)Read more

Fancy hat. Check.

Seersucker suit. Check.

Betting forms. Check.

Bourbon. Check.

And they're off! Saturday's 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is famously known as the most exciting two minutes in sports. And what better reason to throw a spring soiree than the annual Run for the Roses?

There are two ways to play this one; pick your party style and go for it. The race starts at 6 p.m., so you'll want to get into the groove by 3 or 4 at the latest.

Option one: If you want to impress, set a Millionaire's Row mood that references the expensive box seats at Churchill Downs where the rich and famous mingle and pose for the paparazzi during the Derby.

Think red color scheme (the winning horse is blanketed in red roses), with china, crystal, silver and fancier eats - bourbon-glazed pork loin, lollipop lamb chops, bourbon balls and, of course, pecan pie.

Guests should come in racing silks and fancy hats at the very least. If they have a favorite horse and jockey, they can dress in those colors as a show of solidarity. It's like wearing Eagles green, but fancier.

Option two: Celebrate general-admission style. Most infield spectators can't actually see the race - they're at Churchill Downs for the party.

Ditch the swank in lieu of an outdoor backyard scene, complete with colorful plastic dishes and cups, red-checked tablecloths and a southern barbecue spread.

A great do ahead option is the Bluegrass State's official dish, burgoo - a beef and chicken stew whose origins trace back to the Civil War. Great with beer, though, of course, potent horse-powered mint juleps are de rigueur even in the cheap seats.

If your yard has the space, have a game of horseshoes perhaps?

You'll still want to have hats on hand for a parade, and the words to "My Old Kentucky Home" for the post-race sing along.

However you do the party, wagers are the order of the day.

Go with an online service - is the official online wagering site. Sign up for an account and send in some cash, then you're virtually there.

Or you could pick numbers 1-20 out of a hat - or put the horses names on the pieces of paper - and go to town. Have everybody chip in some cash to, well, make it a horse race.

In case you hadn't heard, Goldencents and Verrazano are all favored to win. But then again, it's a race, and the only sure bet is you'll get a run for your money.


1 liter Maker's Mark® Bourbon

Lots of fresh spearmint

Distilled water

Granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves, wash them and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Maker's Mark and soak leaves for 15 minutes.

Gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whiskey. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Set aside.

To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup distilled water in a cooking pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of Maker's Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. (Pour the remaining whiskey from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose.)

Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker's Mark.

Add the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. (And your head, if you're sampling too much!)

The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste - generally about 3 tablespoons of the mixture.

When you think it's right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to let the flavors blend.

To serve the mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of fresh mint and pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar over the top and serve. Serves 14-16 people.