Tag Archives: Derby

The Kentucky Mint Julep

May is definitely a month full of celebrations. There’s Cinco de Mayo (hello margaritas!), Mother’s Day (where would we be without the women who raised us?), and most importantly to Kentuckians (sorry margs and moms), the Kentucky Derby.

On Saturday, May 3, the 140th run of the Kentucky Derby will take place at Churchill Downs in Louisville. But the real questions that everyone seems to have on their mind are; what will everyone be wearing and what will everyone be drinking?

In regards to people’s outfits, the hats are a given. We can’t wait to see some of the crazy things that people come up with this year! These are just a sample of the dozens of fantastic and creative hats guests have made over the years.

In regards to drinking, many would argue that the only acceptable refreshment on Derby Day is a Mint Julep. This refreshing and delicious drink will go down smooth and leave you feeling great. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the infield or one of the owner’s boxes—the Mint Julep doesn’t discriminate!

If you don’t want to take our word for it, check out UPK’s book The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe Nickell.

It looks at the origins of the julep, offers a brief history of American whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, and shares some classic julep tales. Information on julep cups, tips on garnishing and serving, and reminiscences from the likes of Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, and General John Hunt Morgan give a fun, historic look at Kentucky’s favorite drink. The book also includes recipes for classic juleps, modern variations, non-alcoholic versions, and the author’s own thoroughly researched “perfect” mint julep.

So celebrate the Derby by buying Nickell’s book on our website and drinking a Mint Julep. May the betting odds be ever in your favor!

A May Must-Have: Bluegrass Piettes

What dishes did you make for your Derby parties this past weekend? Any bourbon involved? We’d love to see some pictures! Share them with us via Facebook and Twitter, #KYFresh!

Maggie Green, author of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, shares the following recipe for Bluegrass Piettes in honor of her aunt Mary. She says this finger dessert is a favorite of her sister, who lives in Baltimore and serves it when she hosts Derby parties for her Preakness-loving friends.

piettes2Cream Cheese Pastry
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1⁄4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
1⁄2 cup semisweet mini chocolate “morsels” (mini chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously spray three 12-cup mini-muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the Cream Cheese Pastry into 1-inch balls. I use a #100 scoop or a melon baller. Place the balls of dough in the cups of the muffin pans. Using your index finger or the blunt end of thick wooden spoon, make an indentation in each ball of dough, forming a small pastry shell. Press the dough up the sides of the muffin pan.
For the filling, mix the butter and sugars until dissolved. Stir in the flour, egg, corn syrup, bourbon, salt, pecans, and chocolate chips. Using a teaspoon, fill each pastry shell half full. Do not overfill, or the filling will bubble out during baking. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling puffs up and the crust is golden brown. Cool slightly in the pan. Run a thin knife around the edges of the piettes to loosen, and then carefully remove them to a rack to cool completely.

Enter our weekly giveaway to receive this and hundreds of other great KY recipes in Green’s latest book, The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook! We will draw the winner Friday May 10 at 1 pm.

Book Excerpt from Never Say Die

Derby Day is just a week from tomorrow! Get in the spirit with an excerpt from this week’s giveaway book, Never Say Die by James C. Nicholson.

Chapter 1: A Historic Derby Triumph and a Wager That Changed History

A quarter million people braved the cold and damp conditions at Epsom Downs on June 2, 1954, to witness the 175th running of the Derby Stakes, one of grandest scenes in all of sport. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, bicycles and motorcycles brought Britons from every background to the racecourse, less than fifteen miles south of central London. Among the throng was Queen Elizabeth II, who hoped her colt Landau could improve on his stablemate Aureole’s second-place finish in the previous year’s Derby. Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill adjourned a cabinet meeting early so he could attend the festivities. With the surrounding countryside open to the public, a broad spectrum of humanity that included gypsies, touts, gamblers, and fortune-tellers filled the area around the racecourse, contributing to a spectacle unlike any other on earth. Aristocrats drank champagne, while farmers and laborers ate fish and chips and jellied eels and winkles. Carousels and caravans dotted the landscape as last-minute bets were placed while the field of twenty-two three-year-olds made its way to the starting post.

The Derby Stakes itself had its origins in the inaugural running of the Oaks Stakes for three-year-old fillies at Epsom in 1779. The Oaks was named after the racing lodge of the 12th Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley, who leased the building—a renovated former alehouse—from his uncle by marriage, General John Burgoyne (of American Revolutionary War fame). Following a victory by his filly Bridget in the first Oaks Stakes, the lord held a celebration at his lodge. There, the guests agreed that there should be a similar race organized for colts. According to legend, Lord Derby won a coin flip with influential racing official and member of Parliament Sir Charles Bunbury to determine whose name that race would carry. The following year the first Derby Stakes was held, and it was Bunbury who took the winner’s purse with his outstanding colt Diomed. By supporting racing, Bunbury was carrying on something of a family tradition, in that he was married to a great-granddaughter of King Charles II (her grandfather was the illegitimate son of Charles and his mistress, Louise de Kerouvalle).

One hundred seventy-four years later, a chestnut colt called Never Say Die—his name an allusion to a near-death experience at birth—took the lead in the final quarter mile beneath 18-year-old jockey Lester Piggott and galloped on to a two-length Derby triumph at odds of 33–1, to the astonishment of the hundreds of thousands in attendance and the millions listening to the BBC radio broadcast. With that victory, the colt became the first Kentucky-born horse to win England’s great race, and his owner, a “completely flabbergasted” Robert Sterling Clark, became the first American owner to win the race with an American horse he had bred himself. Never Say Die made newspaper headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, and the most earth-shattering part of the story was that the winner of the Epsom Derby had been foaled in the United States and was owned by an American. In the Derby’s long history, only one other American-born horse had won—Pennsylvania-bred Iroquois in 1881. No horse born in Kentucky, the commercial breeding center of the American Thoroughbred industry, had ever won the great race.

American horsemen were overjoyed at the news that an American horse had won the Derby. In the Thoroughbred Record, a Kentucky-based weekly publication, columnist Frank Jennings noted that, prior to Never Say Die’s victory: “Repeated failure on the part of Americans in the English Derby not only was becoming monotonous but was downright discouraging. Men of less determination and means than Mr. Clark gradually had become reconciled to the idea that a score in the big race at Epsom was virtually impossible with a colt bred and raised on this side of the Atlantic. Never Say Die did a great deal toward changing this thought and at the same time provided a fine example of the fact that American bloodlines, when properly blended with those of foreign lands, can hold their own in the top company of the world.”


To keep reading, enter to win a copy of Never Say Die. The winner will be announced after 1:00pm today!

Your Call to Post: It’s Derby Time!

This Saturday marks the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” There are few other Kentucky traditions that fully encompass what it is to live in or visit the Bluegrass State. The Derby has it all: beautiful horses, the twin spires in the background, roses, hats, mint juleps, and of course who doesn’t get chills at the Call to Post and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home during the post parade?

Herewith, a few of our favorite Derby-themed books:

The Thoroughbred Horse has an unparalleled significance to the state of Kentucky. The breeding, training, selling, and racing of these remarkable animals today amounts to a multibillion dollar sporting business, and the development of that industry serves as a compelling history of both the state and the Sport of Kings itself. The Kentucky Thoroughbred tells that story, chronicling racing’s history through tales of its most dominant, memorable stallions.

“Hollingsworth writes with authority and a good deal of polish about an exotic industry in which Kentucky has led the world for at least a century, and about equine feats that today’s horseplayers may find virtually incredible.”–Louisville Courier-Journal

In her debut book, How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders, former turf writer Maryjean Wall explores the post–Civil War world of Thoroughbred racing, before the Bluegrass region reigned supreme as the unofficial Horse Capital of the World. Wall uses her insider knowledge of horse racing as a foundation for an unprecedented examination of the efforts to establish a Thoroughbred industry in late-nineteenth-century Kentucky. How Kentucky Became Southern offers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbred industry and its place in Kentucky history.

“When the nation’s attention focuses on Churchill Downs again next spring and Louisville turns on the charm, we will now know . . . what exactly it is what we’re drinking to when we raise that first mint julep.”–Wall Street Journal

Thanks in part to the general popularity of cocktails and the marketing efforts of the bourbon industry, there are more brands of bourbon and more bourbon drinkers than ever before. In The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler provide a reader-friendly handbook featuring more than 100 recipes including seasonal drinks, after-dinner bourbon cocktails, Derby cocktails, and even medicinal toddies.

“Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler showcase the world of bourbon in a reader-friendly format, highlighting techniques, ingredients, food selection, and glassware for the professional or home bartender. . . . Everyone, from the bourbon connoisseur to the amateur enthusiast, can appreciate this how-to guide, which embraces the rich heritage and sophistication of a true Kentucky classic.”--Kentucky Post

Lighthearted, entertaining, and informative, The Kentucky Mint Julep explores the lore and legend of the Kentucky Derby’s traditional tipple.Information on julep cups, tips on garnishing and serving, and reminiscences from the likes of Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, and General John Hunt Morgan give a fun, historic look at Kentucky’s favorite drink. The book includes numerous recipes—for classic juleps, modern variations, non-alcoholic versions, and the author’s own thoroughly researched “perfect” mint julep.

“Mint, syrup, bourbon. Horse-racing fans instantly recognize those ingredients for a mint julep, the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. The book has more than 20 recipes. . . . It’s definitely a book to read before you buy silver julep cups.”– New York Times

In Kentucky Horse Country: Images of the Bluegrass, renowned photographer James Archambeault captures the natural beauty of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region and the thoroughbred industry for which it is famous. Kentucky Horse Country contains 165 full-color images, from tender scenes of mares and foals grazing, to the excitement of race day at Keeneland, to gorgeous landscapes of white fences enclosing lush rolling hills.

“Internationally renowned photographer James Archambeault has done it again—captured the beauty of our state with his lens and preserved it within the pages of a coffee-table book that any Kentuckian would be proud to own, or place under the Christmas tree for some other fortunate reader.”–The Voice- Tribune

Cook for the Roses

This Saturday will be the 1st of May- which, for Kentuckians signifies the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby! The Derby is a 1 1/4 mile race where the best 3-year-olds in horse racing compete for the prestigious honor of wearing the blanket of roses. The Louisville Courier-Journal hosts a great page on its website to document all the Derby Fun, including featuring UPK author Albert Schmid and The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook. Chef Schmid will guide you through all the recipes to make your derby party truly authentic and yummy… but you’re on your own choosing a hat!