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Friday, May 4, 2012

Drinker’s dilemma: celebrate Derby Day or Cinco de Mayo?

Dawn Saturday will find Salt Lake City cocktailians rubbing their eyes and wondering how they should spend their day: celebrating the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby or celebrating Cinco de Mayo.  Both of these days are often the occasion for parties or gatherings, and both have strong associations with popular cocktails: the Margarita for Cinco de Mayo, and the Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby.

Early in the day (but not too early, post time isn’t until around 4:20 PM MDT) it will be time for the classic Mint Julep that has been Churchill Down's signature cocktail for 75 years since 1938.  (Remember, the race only lasts two minutes, so don’t miss it because you’re off making Juleps.)  The more adventurous among you should by now have tried David Wondrich’s variation on the Mint Julep, the Prescription Julep, a perfect combination of Rye Whiskey and Cognac.  Juleps are best enjoyed with fresh mint; if you’re stuck with store-bought mint this year, check out this article for information on growing your own for next year.  Yes, Juleps are delicious, but don’t overdo it if you also plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo later.

How will you be celebrating Cinco de Mayo when evening comes?  This year marks the 150th anniversary of Mexico’s Batalla de Puebla, so Mexican-Americans may party more than usual.  Salt Lake City lovers of Classic Margaritas may be going to a favorite local Mexican restaurant like Frida Bistro or Tres Hombres, or celebrating at home with a favorite recipe.  Margaritas are the favorite cocktail of the USA, based on sales; over four million Margaritas are sold in the USA daily.  As yummy as Classic Margaritas are, you might be ready for something different.  So why not try a Chambord® Margarita Royale?  Both of these Margaritas are delicious and they taste so good that it’s easy to have one too many, so drink wisely.  To give your Margaritas a special flair, see my Cinco de Mayo glass rimming technique


  1. Nice blog! Utah mixologists unite!

    Mint julep all the way today. I wouldn't order one here in a bar though. I'm an ex-bartender from California and like to make mai tais and zombies and all those tiki drinks. My experience with cocktails in Utah leads me to give them a failing report card for exotic/historical mixed drinks.

    The real crime is that online gambling is illegal in Utah so you can't bet on the Kentucky Derby here. You can watch it on TV, but you can't gamble on it. You can drink a mint julep in celebration, but no wagering. There are some very juvenile, condescending laws in this state unfortunately. This one is just plain silly and the state also fails to make money off it.

    In regards to freedoms, fun, and plain economics, religion and politics don't mix. Fortunately mint, bourbon, simple syrup, water, and crushed ice do.


    1. Hi Mike:

      I know what you mean, but there are some good bartenders in Utah who really try. Bar X has pretty good cocktails in SLC, and some of the big hotels in Park City really make an effort.

      One of the problems in Utah is the legal restrictions on what can go into a drink. While they are not as bad as some people think they are, they are still an obstacle to mixing some classic or more complex cocktails the way they were intended to be made.

      That gives amateurs like me their only advantage: we can mix the drinks the way they were meant to be mixed. (Assuming we can find all of the ingredients!) Of course, you pros can do that when you're "off duty".

      Welcome to Utah. While living here can have it's frustrations, it's also a pretty nice place to live. I've been here 30 years now and have no plans to leave.

    2. Thanks for the bar recommendations. I will have to check them out. And Utah is an extreme example (what is it with those Orwellian, electronic measuring devices for pouring alcohol anyways?), but even in places like California, I wouldn't order a lot of historical cocktails at most places. After you learn how to make Mai Tais and Singapore Slings correctly at home, you either just make them for yourself, for guests at parties, or lament you don't have enough capital to open up a tiki bar and corner the market on Utah Mixology.


  2. @Mike: Finca is also starting to do interesting things. Scott Gardner is going to be a real rising star in all things cocktail. We've spend many evenings tasting our way through ingredients. In more than one instance also worked with DABC to get the ingredient into the State.