Bourbon cocktail and cooking recipes for the Kentucky Derby party

The Kentucky Derby arrives on Saturday, and that means it’s time to plan the party if you’re not heading to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

What does it take to throw a fun evening to watch Derby? It’s surprisingly easy. You’ll need a way to watch the race, of course. NBC will have the May 7 race, plus hours of coverage on

And hats: get creative, make your own at home.

For those who don’t bet online, you can always get the flavor of pulling Derby horse names out of a hat to cheer on.

Here are more ideas that will give you an authentic Run for the Roses flavor at home.

Tawnya Rivers drank a mint julep and watched horses at Churchill Downs on Derby Day 2019 in Louisville. Catherine Ziesig

Mint Julep Recipe

Here’s the secret to a good mint julep: ice cream. It’s true. They are better cold.

Don’t bother with the pre-made mint julep drinks you can buy at the liquor store. Because a julep is basically fresh spearmint, simple syrup, ice, and bourbon.

“The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book” by Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler has this recipe:

From the Lexington Herald-Leader and Everything you need to know about Kentucky bourbon

But here’s the truth: Mint Juleps on the trail aren’t terrible. This is the experience of having one at Churchill Downs. So feel free to skip the julep and try another (and much tastier in my opinion) Derby cocktail: The Woodford Spire. It is also served at Churchill and made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which sponsors the Derby.

A certain pecan pie with chocolate chips

You probably know the one I’m talking about. It is sometimes referred to as May Day Pie because of its association with the Derby. Kern’s Kitchen makes the original Derby Pie, a kind of corn syrup and pecan pie with chocolate chips and, sometimes, bourbon.

There are many variations on the theme, including versions that omit the bourbon altogether if that’s not to your taste.

Lexington cookbook author Barbara Harper Bach, who knows award-winning pies well, has a unique approach: She calls hers Racetrack Pie and dresses it in whipped bourbon cream when serving. She also likes to put horse-themed cutouts on top while baking the pie to give it a festive look.

Racetrack Pie.JPG
Barbara Harper Bach’s Racetrack Pie is a twist on the classic Kentucky pie with bourbon, chocolate, and nuts. She uses cutouts to give it a festive look, then dresses it in bourbon whipped cream for serving. Barbara Harper Bach

Benedictine spread recipe

Other Kentucky specialties you can add to the feast include Benedictine sandwiches, a kind of cucumber spread created by Louisville caterer Jennie Benedict more than 100 years ago.

Cookbook author Ronni Lundy included a version in his book “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken”. Serve on crustless white bread, with crackers or with vegetables for dipping.

Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business journalist who has also covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.
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