Words: Jess Graves | Photos: Caroline Fontenot
Atlanta barman Jeff Banks pulls inspiration from his time inside the circle for a bourbon punch worthy of Kentucky's biggest party. Plus, five more Derby-inspired libations and a playlist for your adult celebrations with our friends at Town & Country magazine.
"Thousands of raving, stumbling drunks, getting angrier and angrier as they lose more and more money. By midafternoon they’ll be guzzling mint juleps with both hands and vomitting on each other between races. The whole place will be jammed with bodies, shoulder to shoulder. It’s hard to move around. The aisles will be slick with vomit; people falling down and grabbing at your legs to keep from being stomped. Drunks pissing on themselves in the betting lines. Dropping handfuls of money and fighting to stoop over and pick it up.” - Hunter S. Thompson, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved"
To anyone that's been, the Kentucky Derby's refined reputation is at best, a very beautiful facade. The peacocking, pageantry, jockeys and juleps are all very lovely, but in truth, it wears on into a loud, bawdy, drunken and debaucherous party; one folks dress up real nice and put on fancy hats for. "I've seen things there I've never seen anywhere" barman Jeff Banks muses from behind the brass and Thonet-laden bar at The Luminary, Atlanta's hip brasserie run by Top Chef alum Eli Kirshtein. "Drugs out in the open, people just losing their minds." His eyes twinkle. "It's a pretty good time."
"I'm not a 'sports guy', but I love the Derby. I've had the honor to work inside the circle a few times making drinks. I came up with a punch, nothing is worse when you’re having a party and making guests’ drinks every few minutes - especially when you drink like I do." - Jeff Banks