I’ve attended the Kentucky Derby seven times in my life (three times with Jim). Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it to the track this year. Instead, we did what any cocktail aficionados would do – we planted ourselves at Fat Cat and requested a mint julep!
Fat Cat is quite possibly one of the best cocktail bars I’ve ever been to. That includes cocktail bars in NYC, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It’s possible I give the bar extra points because it’s down the street, they’re always friendly (and don’t mind our French), they seem to love we order bourbon on the regular, AND it’s never crazy packed. Add to that they make phenomenal drinks and visiting this place on the night of the Derby is a no-brainer.
What you see in the photo is a traditional julep along with a Spanish julep (the one with two straws). We had an interesting exchange with the bartender who suggested I try the Spanish julep, which he explained (in French) would be less harsh. What’s in it? Some sort of Spanish brandy (I think) and a couple other things. It was amazing. I explained to our bartender the Kentucky Derby was on in an hour or two, hence us ordering the juleps. His immediate response was that he had heard people start drinking mint juleps at 10am (then made a gagging face). We laughed and then I told him I’m from Kentucky. Here he got quite excited and went over to the bar and pulled down a bottle of Blantons. He explained this was one of his favorites. I agreed and asked if he collects them for the toppers. He laughed. This was the beginning of a great evening with this guy. He let us smell and taste so many things and really chatted with us in spite of the language barrier. This is probably my favorite place to speak French (or try) as it’s just more fun.
After our juleps, we switched to something different. I went with the Choco Jack. Essentially it’s an old-fashioned with creme de cacao. It might be my new, favorite old-fashioned. Even tastier than our Seattle rum & bourbon old-fashioned. Jim requested the bartender’s choice or “choix du barman.” This is one of our go-to requests at a bar, and usually yields pretty amazing results. The best part was when we asked in French, our bartender had no idea what we said. So we typed it on our phone. He laughed, explained how to pronounce it, then pantomimed and joked that when you say it, it sounds like it belongs in a sad French film and drew an imaginary tear down his cheek with his index finger. Clearly, we want to befriend him. He ended up being pretty secretive about his choice, hiding the bottles from us as he added ingredients. The finished product was in a high ball glass over ice with some fresh sage. We took a sip & it was refreshing heaven. We oohed and aahed over the drinks, exchanging many a, “très délicieux.” As we settled our bill, the bartender said, “If you’d like it again, ask for a bourbon celery fizz.” Yes sir, yes we will.
We hurried back to our apartment to see if we could watch the race on TV. No coverage in France. As such, we consulted the Internet and were able to watch the entirety of the race. I was pulling for Exaggerator, but Nyquist took home the roses.
Great way to start a new tradition as expats in our new city.
2 Comments Add yours
Me? I prefer Woodford Reserve as it was a short drive from our house in Kentucky, and we knew about it before it got big…and expensive. 🙂
Blanton’s isn’t my favorite, either. I think I’ve become more of a Jim Beam family drinker (Basil Hayden, Bookers, Knob Creek) and I always love Maker’s Mark, which is always available just about everywhere.
My dad would agree with you on Woodford. I think it’s his favorite (also the distiller of the KY Derby!), though he did enjoy Bookers when we took him to the Jim Beam distillery years ago.