Tag Archives: mint julep

The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party

Plan Perfect Derby Party

Like the big race itself, Kentucky Derby parties never go out of style. This post was originally published on our blog on May 2, 2015:

Of the many traditions that go hand-in-hand with the Kentucky Derby—the hat, the silks, the roses, the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”—hosting a Derby party can be the most fun, especially for those who can’t make it to Churchill Down; but it can also be the most stressful. If you’re looking to throw the perfect Derby party, look no further than the recipes, decor, and ideas below. If you’re looking for something printable, download a PDF here: Plan the perfect KENTUCKY DERBY PARTY.

The Space:

tissue paper roses DIYRoses, roses everywhere! Run to the florist, or fake it up with red tissue paper to celebrate the Run for the Roses. Plus, its easy to coordinate with red plates and dinnerware. Set up a photo station with your own blanket of roses covering a blank stretch of wall. It only takes three things: thin wire, a cheap shower curtain, and plenty of red tissue paper. Here’s a great how-to from Brit and Co.

Fun & Festive:

It’s not a party without party games! Here are a few of our favorites to keep the good times going until the call to the post:

  • Bring the Derby to the Derby party! Place the names of the horses (or the numbers 1 -20) on folded slips of paper into a hat (bonus points for using a derby hat!) Guests can draw the number of the horse they’re rooting for in the big race. Make sure to have a fantastic prize for the winner, maybe an extra Race-Day Pie to take home?
  • The weather is (almost) always beautiful the first weekend in May. Horseshoes and/or Corn Hole move the party outdoors into the yard, putting Derby hats to good use under the sun.
  • Speaking of Derby hats, why not have a contest to see who has the best Derby hat? The men are invited too!
  • And lastly, an idea from KentuckyDerby.com: Ice Cube Jockey Races. Freeze small jockeys (or any differently colored or shaped tokens) to the tops of ice cubes. At the start of the race all participants can wager on a horse. Take a flat, smooth surface (glass from a large picture frame, an over-the-door bathroom mirror, etc.) and lay it across a table at an angle. Line the ice cube jockeys up, keeping them in place with a yard stick and then let them loose all at once for a fun and crazy race. To repeat simply refreeze the jockeys on new ice cubes and freeze until the down time between the next races.

The Drinks:

C’mon, this one’s obvious: mint juleps all around! Easy to prep and easy to serve, you really can’t go wrong with the most traditional of traditions; it’s a classic for a reason. Perfect MINT JULEP For the younger partiers, the designated drivers, and those who might not be bourbon fans (it’s OK, we forgive them), you can’t go wrong with a non-alcoholic sparkler. You can even reuse your mint-infused simple syrup for extra flavor. Derby Sparkler Drink

The Food:

Origin stories differ greatly, but burgoo has definitely evolved into a delicious “catch-all” stew. Basically, you can’t go wrong throwing everything you’ve “caught” into a giant pot and letting it simmer until ready. But if you’re looking for a specific recipe, The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by nutritionist Maggie Green, has great ingredients and an easy, one-pot method.

Kentucky Fresh Burgoo

For small-bites, try Maggie Green’s steamed asparagus or green beans with toasted sesame mayonnaise:

Trim the asparagus and/or green beans and steam until bright green and tender (but still a little crisp). To make the toasted sesame mayonnaise dipping sauce, whisk 1 cup mayonnaise, juice of 1/2 lemon, 3 tablespoons dark sesame seed oil, 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve on the side as a dipping sauce, or thin with a bit more lemon juice and drizzle it over the veggies.

Sweet Treats:

Race-Day Pie, Saturday-in-May Pie, Bluegrass Pie…whatever you call it, the trademarked treat with bourbon, chocolate, and pecans in a pie crust is a must-have on the first Saturday of May.

In Bourbon Desserts, Lynn Marie Hulsman offers up the recipe for her Grandma Rose’s Big Race Pie. If you want to go really Kentucky, snag your flour from Weisenberger Mill, your pecans from Hickman, Kentucky, and your chocolate from Ruth Hunt Candies (or your favorite, local chocolatier).

Bourbon Desserts Derby Pie

Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month With These Bourbon Books

Nobody in Kentucky needs a reason to celebrate bourbon more than we already do each day, but if Congress wants to dedicate a whole month to the cause, we certainly won’t object. Thankfully, Congress did just that in 2007 when it declared September National Bourbon Heritage Month.

Over the past decade, bourbon has exploded on the national scene in a big way finally catching up with what Kentuckians knew all along. Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’ve long been connoisseurs of the historic spirit so we’ve compiled a list books that should interest everyone from the bourbon historian to the home cook. Enjoy and read responsibly!


Bourbon New Books on America's Native Spiritmanhattan.final.inddThe Manhattan Cocktail covers everything that the aficionado needs to know about the classic cocktail through an examination of its history and ingredients. Author Albert W. A. Schmid dispels several persistent myths, including the tale that the Manhattan was created in 1874 by bartenders at New York City’s Manhattan Club to honor the newly elected Governor Samuel Jones Tilden at Lady Randolph Churchill’s request. Schmid also explores the places and people that have contributed to the popularity of the drink and inspired its lore, including J. P. Morgan, who enjoyed a Manhattan every day at the end of trading on Wall Street.


PeacheeCvCompF.inddIn The Birth of Bourbon, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories.


If it’s a month-long bourbon tour you’re looking for, this travel guide will not let you down.

Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide

Like wine lovers who dream of traveling to Bordeaux or beer enthusiasts with visions of the breweries of Belgium, bourbon lovers plan their pilgrimages to Kentucky’s bourbon country. And what a country it is! Some of the most famous distilleries are tucked away in the scenic countryside of the Bluegrass region, stretching between Louisville, Bardstown, and Lexington. Locals and tourists alike seek out the finest flavors of Kentucky as interest in America’s only native spirit continues to grow.

Continue reading

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!

Derby is Coming…(Order your $1000 mint julep in advance)

The mint julep has been the traditional cocktail of The Kentucky Derby for almost a century, and has been served at Churchill Downs racetrack since 1875. For those attending the Derby in high style on the first Saturday in May, Woodford Reserve Distillery offers The $1000 Julep Cup, now in its seventh year, to quench your thirst and benefit the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center

The $1000 Mint Julep CupThe sterling silver and gold cup honors the 89th year that the Kentucky Derby winner has been awarded the gold trophy. There will be a total of 89 cups available for purchase or auction beginning April 15.

Buyers of the $1000 Mint Julep Cup will receive their cups on Derby Day, filled with a specially-crafted Mint Julep recipe:

  • Mint leaves grown near the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky, that are dusted with gold
  • Woodford Gold sorghum from Woodford County, Kentucky
  • Ice made of gold-filtered mineral water
  • Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, the bourbon that has won a gold medal at every major spirits competition

For those interested in a more modest julep recipe, The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe Nickell offers recipes and commentary ranging from the traditional to the historical and even the modern. Register by tomorrow, Friday, April 19 at 1 pm to win a copy of Nickell’s book!

The Great Compromiser’s Mint Julep

Henry Clay

Enjoy a little taste of Kentucky history while sipping on this recipe straight out of Henry Clay’s diary. We can only imagine that between representing the state in Congress, serving as Secretary of State, and running for presidency, Clay liked to relax and unwind with the fine mint julep described below.

The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice.

In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with the choicest sprigs of mint.

…simple, right?

Enter our giveaway this week for a chance to win The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe Nickell! In it, you will find more famous Kentuckians’ favorite julep variations.

A Refreshing Derby Giveaway: The Kentucky Mint Julep

The Kentucky Mint JulepEach year, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of whiskey, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice. With less than three weeks until the 139th Run for the Roses, you’ll want to be ready to mix-and-mash and talk-the-talk about this quintessential Derby drink.

A simple concoction—bourbon, mint, sugar, and water—the mint julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century.  Few people know the drink’s history, and even fewer know how to properly mix this classic cocktail. Lighthearted, entertaining, and informative, The Kentucky Mint Julep explores the lore and legend of the Kentucky Derby’s traditional tipple. Joe Nickell 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 includes numerous recipes—for classic juleps, modern variations, non-alcoholic versions, and the author’s own thoroughly researched “perfect” mint julep. This delightful book is illustrated with historic photographs, a map of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and more.

Whether you’ll be toasting on Millionaire’s Row, celebrating in the Infield, or watching the races at home, The Kentucky Mint Julep is a sure bet to be the ultimate guide to the quintessential Derby drink.

Enter this week’s giveaway for your chance to win a copy of The Kentucky Mint Julep.