The Commonwealth may not be united on things like basketball and team colors, but that season is over for now and the one thing nearly all of us can agree on is how we spend our time on the first Saturday in May: at a Kentucky Derby celebration, of course!
Everyone has his or her own way of celebrating, and if you have the opportunity to pass this weekend at Churchill Downs, more power to you – have a $1,000 Julep for us! Central Kentucky fans can also join the “World’s Largest Derby Party” party at Keeneland for Oaks and Derby Days.
But, if you’re planning a party, or planning to attend one, we’ve gathered some recipes to guide you for the perfect Derby Day, course by course.
The Essential Kentucky Derby Drink: Mint Julep
There are options to purchase if you’re looking for quick quality, but if you have time to prep, homemade mint simple syrup is a charming and tasty way to achieve authentic flavor with less mess and more time to enjoy your day!
Shopping List: Bourbon, Sugar, Fresh Mint, Ice
2 Cups Mint Simple Syrup (make ahead)*
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) mint leaves
Heat 1 cup water over medium-high heat, stir in 1 cup sugar and stir occasionally until dissolved. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until syrup slightly thickens. Remove from heat and add 1 cup mint leaves (smoosh the leaves down in the measuring cup to make a mint syrup that’s full of mint flavor). Steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain out leaves, allow to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
*Tip: Simple syrup is always a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, so you can easily increase the yield amount by doubling ingredients.
Per individual drink
2 oz. Bourbon (cheat your measurement by filling a normal shot glass twice)
Rocks glass full of shaved ice*
2 tsp. mint simple syrup
Mint sprigs for garnish
Combine bourbon and mint simple syrup, swirl, and pour over shaved ice. Garnish with mint sprigs. Make these two at a time (at least) so you always have someone to toast with. Cheers!
*Tip: If you don’t have shaved ice you can blend normal ice in your blender to a finer texture, or use normal ice (tone it down if you need to with a teaspoon of water – Kentuckians like their bourbon drinks stout!).
The Essential Derby Dish: Country Ham Biscuits
The beauty of this delicious favorite is that it’s easy-peasy and takes little to no time to assemble. With a high-quality meat, you can get away with using a biscuit mix and everyone will still be grasping for the last one! If you’re really feeling pressed for time to find the goods, try famous Father’s Country Hams – they have a pre-assembled Kentucky Derby Special that delivers to your door.
Shopping List: The best country ham you can find (try Critchfield’s Meats for Country Ham and more) and a quality biscuit mix (we love Weisenberger’s mixes) or the ingredients for your own favorite biscuit recipe
Prepare and bake your biscuits, and while they’re rising up, prep your country ham by slicing thinly. When the biscuits have baked and cooled, slice or split them and then portion out a few slices of ham on each. Arrange on a platter (but don’t spend too much time on this – they’ll be gone in no time!).
The Essential Derby Dessert: (Whatever You Call It Don’t Call it Derby) Pie
Can we take a brief moment to be real, here? We love to throw parties and delight our guests with delicacies and details, but there are some times when the fates align to point to one thing: go out and buy a gosh darn pie.
Pies can be tough and there are so many variations on the Kern’s actual, real, true original Derby Pie that it’s hard to know which will provide the authentically pleasing, chocolaty-toasty-nutty-gooey indulgence we all crave after the thrill of victory – or the agony of defeat.
Plus, you will be doing prep work on a Friday night, after all…buy a pie and leave yourself some time to test out your Julep recipe (just to make sure it’s safe, of course).
To help you out, we’ve found a couple of the best bets for a carried out winner. Pop it in a pie dish when you get home and no one will be the wiser (wink, wink):
The original can be ordered online or found at many major grocery stores. Visit the site for details.
Missy’s Pies, a Lexington favorite, offers their Mayday Pies for your convenience. Call ahead to order.
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