Off to the Races : The Kentucky Derby

On the first Saturday in May at Louisville’s Churchill Downs, it is known that the Kentucky Derby is the “most exciting two minutes in sports”. To celebrate this historical event, a traditional meal can be shared with great company while betting on the horseraces in a high society black-tie soiree or backyard barbeque setting.

Along with a traditional meal, the most famous accessory, the Kentucky Derby hat is as longstanding and important a tradition as the Kentucky Derby itself. With the inspiration of high fashion and high society ideals, brought back from Europe with Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the founder of the Kentucky Derby, guests can come wearing Derby hats. Prizes for the most ornate, the most stylish, the most creative and the most bizarre can be awarded. Even a hat-making party with the children can be an event in itself.


A Kentucky Derby Menu

Henry Bain Sauce – It was named after its inventor, the head waiter at Louisville’s Pendennis Club. Bain made the sauce in 1881 as an accompaniment to wild game, and it’s been a Louisville tradition ever since. A sweet, tangy, spicy concoction, this sauce is best served with beef tenderloin.

Hot Brown Sandwich – Created by the chef of the Brown Hotel, this open-faced sandwich consists of two slices of toast topped with juicy roast turkey, tomato slices, crispy bacon, and a blanket of Cheddar-Parmesan cheese sauce. The sandwich is then broiled until the cheese sauce turns golden brown.

Benedictine – A cucumber canapé spread from the Louisville Benedict Hotel.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie – A rich, dense chocolate-nut pie flavored with Kentucky bourbon. The original version of this pie is trademarked and fiercely protected by its inventors, but there are several unofficial versions of it, such as Run for the Roses Pie, Eighth Race Pie, Thoroughbred Pie .

Mint Julep – “The very dream of drinks,” as 19th century Lexington lawyer and literary stylist J. Soule Smith called it, is a mixture of shaved ice, Kentucky bourbon, sugar, water and fresh mint. The mint julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century.

Despite its few ingredients, a proper julep takes time and patience to make: First, make a mint syrup. Bruise (crush with the hands) a “whole handful” of mint leaves and combine them with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Boil for five minutes, then strain. You should end up with about 2 tablespoons of mint syrup. Pour the mint syrup into your glass (preferably a sterling silver julep cup). Add 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of bourbon and mix. Now fill the cup with crushed ice. Rub fresh mint around the rim of the cup and garnish with fresh mint dipped in powdered sugar. Enjoy!


Photography: Meghan Klein for coco+kelley
Styling: Cassandra Lavalle


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