Sip and Sing Along!

I’m not from a horsy family so I didn’t watch the Kentucky Derby as a child.
This annual ritual began for me in graduate school. Each year my friend Dan Streible gave a Derby party at which guests wore colorful hats (well, this guest did, anyway), sipped mint juleps, and sang “My Old Kentucky Home” along with the folks at Churchill Downs.
We also watched the horse race.
Dan is a darling person and a terrific scholar. He was also smart enough to marry my friend Teri the Renaissance Woman. I think of him every time I watch the Kentucky Derby, sip a mint julep, or sing “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Dan at his recent Orphan Film Symposium, obviously getting ready to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” (Courtesy of the Orphanistas)

Like other tunes by Stephen Foster such as “Hard Times” and “Old Black Joe,” the state song of Kentucky is nostalgically sentimental and easy to sing.
The act of crooning it and watching the VERY brief horse race (which often seems shorter than the song) always starts May off with a bang for me.
The song is traditionally played at the Derby by the University of Louisville Marching Band.
I was lucky enough to find a recording of the band at the Kentucky Derby Information site (which also provides a little history of the relationship between the song and the race, as well as a look at some outstanding Derby hats and of course a few recipes!).
I used it as background for our sing-along. Click on the sheet music below to start the recording and then minimize your audio player so you can read the lyrics and sing with me. That way you’ll be in good voice for the Derby tomorrow.
I’m still working on the recording technology; my loud voice may sound a little fuzzy and faint. I think I messed up a couple of notes and lyrics. And frankly if I’d been in charge of the band I would have asked the musicians to play the song a little faster and a little higher.
If you drink a couple of mint juleps before listening, none of those things should bother you, however.
Here we go……..  
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.
‘Tis summer, the people are gay.
The corn top’s ripe, and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy, and bright.
By’n by hard times comes a knockin’ at the door.
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.
Weep no more, my lady. Oh! Weep no more today.
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
For the old Kentucky home, far away.
Dan’s Mint Juleps
I asked Dan for his julep recipe and then immediately changed it just a little bit by adding mint directly to the simple syrup to make the concoction more minty.
He was vague about amounts of syrup and bourbon. Basically, you should make this drink to your taste! Here I’m giving you the proportions my family uses, along with his instructions, slightly modified.
for the simple syrup:
2 large sprigs very fresh spearmint, slightly crushed
1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
for each julep:
lots of shaved, finely crushed, or snow ice
(You can see from the picture above that I wasn’t the most thorough crusher in the world, but luckily the glasses still ended up frosty as we sipped!)
about 1 ounce simple syrup
about 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon whiskey or coffee flavored whiskey
(Dan says, “There is no such thing as Tennessee bourbon. Don’t make the mistake of using sour-mash whiskey.”)
2 sprigs very fresh spearmint
The day before the Derby (that’s today!) prepare the simple syrup. Combine the mint with the sugar, and pour the boiling water on top. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool and refrigerate overnight.
The next day make the julep.
Pack a julep glass with ice. (No julep glass or cup? Use a highball glass if you must.)
Drizzle simple syrup over the ice. Top off the glass with more ice if needed.
Pour the bourbon over the sweetened ice until the glass is nearly full.
Add sprigs of very fresh spearmint. Stir slowly. Sip slowly, with a straw or not. Be sure to get a snootful of mint as you sip. The longer the bourbon blends with the mint oils the better.
Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. 

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8 Responses to “Sip and Sing Along!”

  1. Mattenylou says:

    Tinky- Newman just hopped up on the bed with me, trying to figure out why you and I are singing away at this hour of the morning…

    Oh well, guess you had to be here!

    Now I’m off to start the coffee and begin my day on a happier note, thanks to our little duet. Thanks for giving me a smile this morning!

  2. Donna says:

    Well, how great is this? What a cheery way to start the day, indeed.

    Tinky, who said you were not a technical marvel?

  3. Jean says:

    That was wonderful! What a way to start the day in the dry desert. At the least, now I know the Derby is tomorrow and I’ll try to be available to see it and look for my favorite hat. They are a hoot. Will pass on the Julep, but it does look refreshing.

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    Mattenylou, I hope I didn’t startle Newman! Donna, I’m the one who said I’m not a technical marvel–and I stand by my words. Jean, maybe you could try the mint syrup in tea if you’re not a bourbon girl? I wish I could see you in the hat!

  5. Ramona says:

    I always watch the Derby. This year will be especially exciting for me – there will be an Iowa horse running for the first time in ages. And I have just enough Kentucky bourbon in the cupboard for one julep. (No big hat, though!)

  6. tinkyweisblat says:

    It’s not to late to buy or borrow a hat, Ramona!

  7. Adelaide B. Shaw says:

    Hi Tinky,

    Kentucky Derby
    picking Tinky’s Mint Julep
    as the winner

    My hubby and I watched the Derby while sipping a mint julep. No hat, though, although I had my big gardening hat on earlier while planting marigolds.


  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    I’m honored, Adelaide!

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