Beyond the Race

Miraval Berkshires & Derby Day

By Araxe Hajian

America’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, traditionally falls on the first Saturday in May, which is right around the corner. When it came to attending turn-of-the-century horse races in America, the bigger the hat, the better the luck.

If you are visiting Miraval Berkshires, you might want to pack your most oversized wide-brimmed hat because we plan on celebrating in style.

A Nod to Tradition

No, we aren’t taking you to the races, but we are honoring an institution through the Miraval lens. In a nod to a bygone era of gilded glamor, we raise a glass to tradition and tip our hats to the upcoming summer season. In this moment of in-between, we can indulge in a cool sprig of mint, ride through bucolic hills, and journey to a place beyond first-place winners, where second chances are plentiful.

At the beginning of May in the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, the Berkshires would be preparing to receive its high-society summer residents. Red columbine, rockcress, and bearberry’s lantern-shaped blooms dotted the landscape as the mountainside blossoms basked in sunshine.

Prominent New York families—including Vanderbilts, Astors, Morgans, and Carnegies—built estates and visited high-society friends in opulent country homes here, called “cottages” (where cottages were defined as a secondary residence with a minimum of 30 rooms and 20 acres). A stately horse and carriage would meet visitors at the Stockbridge train station, ready to whisk them away to their various homes.

Our own Wyndhurst Mansion was one such cottage and continues to host city-dwellers seeking respite and renewal in Western Massachusetts’s rolling hills and peaceful pastures.

A Slower Pace

This Saturday, guests will gather at the Mansion, donning outfits ranging from comfy casualwear to their Derby best, to join Cultural Connoisseur Nick Grimaldi for an informal historical chat while sipping a cool mint julep, Miraval-style. Miraval Animal Connections Specialist Jen Leahey will then whisk guests away to the Meadowview Acres Farm, home to horses, donkeys, chickens, goats, owls, bees, and falcons.

At the Meadowview Farm, Jen will offer a brief background about our co-evolution with horses and the history of horseracing, an ancient sport with aristocratic ties.

Take this opportunity to meet Captain, a rescued racehorse who found a slower pace and second chance in our Animal Connections program. He wasn’t fast enough for the track and was sold to a young woman who bought him to be a jumper. After developing a knee injury, Captain came to Meadowview Acres Farm, where he is free leased to us from the family who owns him.

Here, like our human guests, he will get the support, care, and comfort he needs at this stage of his life. It’s a fast and tough life on the track, and Captain is happy to be in a new place with a deliberate pace, where he can develop trust, slow down, and join our Miraval Herd. Like so many of us, he is in transition and getting used to a new beginning and a new era.

“Captain,” says Jen, “reminds us that life is not about crossing the finish line. We all have gifts to share, no matter where we are in the race.”

A Sip of Serenity

Since the early 19th century, juleps and racetracks were intertwined, as sterling silver julep cups were awarded as trophies to first-place jockeys. In 1877, famous Polish actress Helena Modjeska visited the Derby. Some say that she liked the exceedingly large mint julep (meant for sharing with a group) so much that she kept it for herself and ordered another. In 1939 it became the event’s official drink and has become an official element of the present-day Derby ceremony and Winner’s Party.

“The mint julep,” says Nick, “is one of America’s most delicious and refreshing drinks and one best sipped at an unhurried pace. If you let the ice slowly melt inside the frosted tin, it fuses that orange-infused bourbon with the oil from our own farm’s fresh mint into an elixir of bliss. It’s a drink that might have been created for the fast world of races and raucous crowds, but it’s best when savored and sipped in a serene place like this.”

Take home your own souvenir vessel when you join us this Saturday for good luck, libation, and large hats.

Mint Julep Recipe

Ingredients

  • 8 mint leaves
  • 4 cups Bourbon*
  • 1 large orange
  • 2 tablespoons local honey
  • 3-5 cardamom pods (black or green)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sparkling water

Orange-Infused Bourbon

  • Pour 4 cups of bourbon in a large jar.
  • Slice one orange and place on grill or grill pan to get a light char.
  • Place orange slices and ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice in a pan
  • Add honey, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick and bring mixture to a boil.
  • Turn off heat and let cool.
  • Add mixture to bourbon, cover, and preserve in a dark cabinet for three days.
  • Remove cardamon and cinnamon.

Mint Julep

  1. Shake 2 ounces of orange-infused bourbon with ice and 2 ounces of mint-infused sparkling water.
  2. Pour into a metal mint julep mug filled with crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint sprig.
  3. Enjoy!

*For a spirit-free version, substitute any variation of black ice-tea for bourbon.

Book your next Miraval Berkshires getaway here.


Araxe Hajian is a senior writer who covers wellness stories and specialist offerings at Miraval Resorts & Spas. She was associate editor and writer at Life in Balance Magazine, storyteller at the social platform MindMeet, and author of numerous articles and Miraval Resorts’ coffee-table book Miraval Mindful by Design.

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